Maine Settles With Chevron For $900,000 For Decades-Long Hampden Oil Leak

July 15, 2011

CONTACT:
Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP Spokesperson/Director of Education & Outreach samantha.depoy-warren@maine.gov/ 287-5842 (office) or 592-0427 (cell) or Adrienne Bennett, Press Secretary for Maine Governor Paul LePage adrienne.bennett@maine.gov / 287-2531 (office) or 592-3718 (cell)

-The largest environmental penalty secured by the state in two decades is in addition to a multi-million dollar remediation effort ongoing at the Penobscot River site and being overseen by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection-

HAMPDEN – Maine Governor Paul LePage announced Friday that the State has secured a $900,000 enforcement settlement from Chevron for that company’s decades-long discharge of more than 140,000 gallons of oil at their terminal in Hampden.

The penalty, announced at Hamlin’s Marina on the Penobscot River waterfront by Governor LePage who was joined by Maine Attorney General William Schneider and Maine Department of Environmental Protection Acting Commissioner Pattie Aho, is the largest to be paid to the state for an environmental violation in two decades.

The monetary penalty, negotiated with Chevron by the Governor’s Office, the State Attorney General’s Office and the Maine DEP, is in addition to a multi-million dollar remediation effort led by Chevron and being overseen by the environmental department.

A separate Natural Resource Damages assessment and related negotiations remain ongoing between the State and Chevron to determine an additional settlement to cover the cost of projects to restore injured natural resources.

The consent decree, which outlines the details of Chevron’s discharge on the shores of the river and their failure to remove the oil to the satisfaction of the State, was signed this week by Chevron and DEP.

By law, settlements of Clean Water Act violations are subject to a 30-day opportunity for public comment, which in this case will occur after the proposed consent decree is filed with the Kennebec County Superior Court next week.

“We’ve spent months negotiating this penalty, which is tough but fair and most importantly, will help restore this river and the ecosystems and economies supported by its waters,” said Governor LePage. “This settlement shows that my administration is committed to enforcing environmental laws and will hold individuals and businesses both big and small accountable when they break them.”

Chevron USA Inc. and Texaco Inc. owned and operated two marine oil terminals at 799 and 809 Main Road North in Hampden from the early 1900s through the mid-1980s, during which period, records and recent investigation by the DEP revealed that more than 140,000 gallons of oil was spilled on the property where it has continued to discharge into the river.

Through acquisition and investment, Chevron has retained liability for oil discharges at both terminals.

Maine DEP began uncovering the extent of the environmental violations in 2007 after they issued Chevron a Notice of Violation in 2007 for the purpose of investigation and necessary remediation of potential threats to public and environmental health posed by contamination. The department’s subsequent study of the site and its records led to its decision to pursue enforcement action.

Since 2008, Chevron has met its responsibilities through implementation of a remediation plan overseen by the department. To date, 2,800 tons of oil-contaminated sediment has been removed from the shoreline and nearly 10,000 gallons of oil has been recovered from the subsurface at the site.

Oil continues to be collected from the subsurface, however the volume recovered on a monthly basis is decreasing. There will not be a recovery of all oil spilled as a substantial portion has/will volatilize into the air, dissolve into water and/or stick to rock and soil.

The $900,000 settlement will be used to further environmental protection throughout Maine and support a major economic development and conservation project in the community where the contamination occurred.

The Town of Hampden’s council will vote Monday night on whether to accept $520,000 of the penalty for a Supplemental Environmental Project that will preserve in perpetuity a riverside public park and boat launch that will feature environmental education signage throughout.

If the council agrees, Turtle Head Cove Municipal Park will comprise a total of 12.3 acres and provide outdoor recreational and environmental awareness opportunities for the community, a key component of Hampden’s Comprehensive Plan.

The investment is expected to lead to job creation and business development, as the expanded waterfront access will attract additional visitors down to the water, which current tenants Hamlin’s Marina and McLaughlin’s Seafood say will result in them expanding their facilities and workforce to meet the increased traffic.

The remaining $380,000 of the penalty will go to the Maine Inland and Coastal Surface Oil Clean-Up Fund, used to support the clean-up of oil spills on Maine’s surface waters and to maintain equipment and train personnel for the purpose of responding to the nearly 3,000 oil and hazardous waste spills that occur in the State each year.

“Our department is committed to firm and fair enforcement and on behalf of all of our staff who worked diligently to bring this to resolution, this penalty sends a strong message that our State will not allow infractions of the laws that have made Maine’s environment so pristine and precious,” said Maine DEP Acting Commissioner Aho. “This settlement acknowledges the seriousness of the past violations, but offers a way for the company, the community and the entire state to meaningfully move forward in a way that betters the environment and our passion for protecting it.”

For more information about the Maine Department of Environmental Protection and its requirements regarding petroleum clean-up, visit http://maine.gov/dep/rwm/petroleum/.

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