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A special thank you goes out to Dan Woods and Karen Silverman for their photography donations.

South Portland surprised by the EPA

In late March the citizens and the city officials of South Portland found out that Global’s oil storage tanks in South Portland are currently emitting well over what they are permitted to emit according to the EPA. We were alerted to this violation when the EPA filed a complaint in Federal District Court against Global Partners LP for exceeding their emissions license for well over what they are allowed. Apparently the EPA had never notified South Portland of repeated violations over a period of at least 7 years.


The citizens in the neighborhood of Pleasantdale, where Global’s storage tanks are located, have been complaining for years of seeing plumes, experiencing noxious odors and suffering from headaches and other symptoms. Their complaints have virtually been ignored. There are several schools, daycare facilities, and housing for the elderly in this area. Our most vulnerable citizens, our children and our elderly, are being exposed to noxious fumes and the Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) present in these fumes. (See information on VOC’s below)

The EPA’s action

The EPA filed a consent decree to address the violations by Global. A consent decree is an agreement that is created between two parties to resolve a dispute without an admission of guilt. The consent decree called for Global to pay the U.S. Justice Department $40,000 in penalties and allot $150,000 for upgrades to wood stoves in the area. (There are not many wood stoves in So. Portland.) When the citizens of South Portland discovered the terms of the consent decree, there was an outpouring of anger and indignation at the fact that Global did not have to admit wrongdoing and did not have to address the harm being done now and over many years.

Local complications emerge

The issue has been further complicated by the fact that the Federal EPA and our Maine Department of Environmental Protection (MDEP) have not been able to agree on the same technique for measuring emissions. Although the MDEP has been monitoring the tank farms, they claim they have not found violations and have not seemed willing to aggressively pursue helping the city deal with the pollution entering our air. They did concede to pass out a limited number of testing canisters to individuals in the community. This has been deemed severely inadequate.

More violations

Sprague Oil Company also received a notice of violation from the EPA for several years of violations for which there has never been a consent decree or a filing with the Department of Justice. This issue has not been resolved.

Protect South Portland’s role

Protect South Portland has been actively working to inform the public and explore our legal rights to demand cleaner air. There have been neighborhood meetings to hear complaints and to receive citizen input on how to move forward. Citizens attended City Council meetings and workshops and demanded that there be immediate action taken to minimize these emissions.

After much research on best practices for abating emissions, Protect South Portland in conjunction with other environmental groups filed our official comments on the consent decree to appeal the existing decree and seek a more appropriate settlement.



Recently we received news that the Justice Department did not revise the consent decree despite appeals from many sources including the City of So. Portland, NRCM and PSP. The consent decree requires a review of Global’s permit. There will be a hearing in Augusta which is open to the public with the opportunity to make public

comments. (Typically 2 minutes are allowed.) This is our chance to be heard. Please consider contributing your important comments at this hearing. The date has not been set. We will post the date when available.


On October 29 The City Council chose four of the five members who will form the Clean Air Advisory Committee, CAAC, charged with creating a strategy to improve the air quality in South Portland and the surrounding area. The committee is now made up of the following people: 

Brianne Hicknell - Environmental Engineer

Thomas Mikulka - Environmental Scientist/Chemist

Rebecca Boulos - Public Health Official

Joshua Cutler - Member (Retired Physician)

Anthony Moffa - Environmental Attorney

All meetings will be posted and open to the public, as well as recorded by SPC TV in Council Chambers where they will be held.


The staff liaison for the committee is Scott Morelli, cmorelli@southportland.org.


All information about the CAAC will be posted here 

DEP presents air quality findings

Visit the DEP’s website to view results:



Health Risks of VOC’s

HAP’s, hazardous air pollutants, are some of the more polluting elements in VOC’s, Volatile Organic Compounds. Global was cited by the EPA for releasing twice their permitted VOC’s for at least seven years.  HAP’s vary in their disease effects.  They hit the very young the hardest because they are growing rapidly and their resting metabolic rate is higher.  They consume more oxygen per body weight than adults.  This significantly increases their exposure to HAP’s.  Their airways are narrower and their mucous glands are larger.  Irritations that might cause only a slight response in an adult could result in dangerous obstruction for a child.  This obstruction can put them at risk for allergies and life threatening asthma. 

For all of us, long term exposures have the potential to harm our organ systems such as:  the heart and circulatory system, the liver - our major organ of detoxification - and most critically our immune system.  The genetics we inherit from our parents and past generations isn’t necessarily what condemns us to the cancers, autoimmune, and other diseases that we struggle with.  It is now understood that our inherited DNA functions as a blueprint.  It is the environmental challenges that potentially change the DNA that pulls the trigger for these diseases.

We know that increasing amounts of these VOC’s in the air we breath is a risk factor especially for children, the elderly and pregnant women and those living near the source of these pollutants.  We have heard testimony from people living in the vicinity of the Global tank farm that they have endured frequent severe headaches, and discomfort of breathing in the toxic smells emitted especially in the evenings.
Health Risks of VOC’s

further reading

December 7, 2019

Maine DEP may seek better ways to measure, control oil tank emissions

A bill would direct the Department of Environmental Protection to find the best way to measure and control odors and other air pollution from petroleum storage tanks. READ MORE

Kelley Bouchard

November 8, 2019

Maine Voices: DEP failing to protect South Portland residents from air pollution

SOUTH PORTLAND — Local air quality issues have been in the news lately as the Environmental Protection Agency finalized a lawsuit settlement with Global Partners for air emission violations of volatile organic compounds at their South Portland terminal.  READ MORE

David Falatko

December 7, 2019

They Built a Life in the Shadow of Industrial Tank Farms. Now, They’re Fighting for Answers

Maine’s toxicologist isn’t alarmed by the results of an extensive air monitoring program, but people living near South Portland’s petroleum tank farms are panicking. READ MORE

Sabrina Shankman


November 27, 2019

With Giant Oil Tanks on Its Waterfront, This City Wants to Know: What Happens When Sea Level Rises?

Residents already worried about fumes from the more than 100 giant petroleum storage tanks want to know what happens in the event of a disaster. READ MORE

Sabrina Shankman

October 29, 2019

'This Is Not Normal.’ New Air Monitoring Reveals Hazards in This Maine City.

SOUTH PORTLAND — The latest air quality results from around South Portland’s giant petroleum tank farms and port reveal compounds even the state’s chemist doesn’t understand. READ MORE

Sabrina Shankman


November 27, 2019

Air Monitoring Reveals Troubling Benzene Spikes Officials Don’t Fully Understand

Residents in South Portland, Maine, packed a meeting to find out about the noxious fumes fouling the air they breathe. The news, one official said, was bad. READ MORE

Sabrina Shankman

November 8, 2019

Activists Gird for a Bigger Battle Over Oil and Fumes from a Port City's Tank Farms

Residents in South Portland beat back a tar sands pipeline. Now, fearing for their children's health, they’re rallying the community for a larger fight. READ MORE

Sabrina Shankman

July 28, 2019

State admits it was wrong to resist federal crackdown on oil tank pollution

SOUTH PORTLAND — From 2011 to this year, the Maine DEP sided with oil companies and ignored Environmental Protection Agency attempts to rein in hazardous emissions from tanks in South Portland and Searsport. READ MORE

Kelley Bouchard

July 11, 2019

Unhappy South Portland residents to share grievances about oil tanks

SOUTH PORTLAND — Health concerns, financial distress and fears about environmental damage are expected to be topics July 18. READ MORE

Krysteana Scribner

Screen Shot 2019-07-29 at 4.30.29 PM.png

June 7, 2019

Two South Portland Facilities Cited for Separate Violations

The City of South Portland has recently been informed by both the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) of Notices of Violations (NOVs) issued to Sprague Operating Resources and Global Partners, respectively, for alleged incidents at their South Portland facilities. READ MORE

City of South Portland

June 10, 2019

Fumes from Petroleum Tanks in this City Never Seem to Go Away. What Are the Kids Here Breathing?

SOUTH PORTLAND — As South Portland, Maine, embarks on an air monitoring program, day care providers, the mayor and our reporter begin the search for answers. READ MORE

Sabrina Shankman

June 22, 2019

When Pollution Is a Matter of Life and Death

Opinion —The E.P.A. found that a small town in Louisiana was overloaded with carcinogens. Why didn’t that mean the government had to act?. READ MORE

Sharon Lerner


June 24, 2019

Fearing Toxic Fumes, an Oil Port City Takes Matters Into Its Own Hands

SOUTH PORTLAND — After a series of EPA violations came to light, neighbors in South Portland fan out with portable monitoring devices, ready to test the air they breathe. READ MORE

Sabrina Shankman

May 15, 2019

South Portland emissions controversy inspires bill to require local notice

SOUTH PORTLAND — Two bills would require the Maine DEP to notify municipalities when any ‘notice of violation’ has been issued for emissions infractions and to require independent, third-party testing of emissions. READ MORE

Kevin Miller

May 30, 2019

Air quality monitoring to begin in South Portland next month

SOUTH PORTLAND —The program will address community concerns raised by a federal lawsuit that accused Global Partners LP of violating the Clean Air Act at its petroleum storage facility on the Fore River. READ MORE

Gilligan Graham


May 7, 2019

Senate passes bill calling for state to alert local officials about air quality violations

SOUTH PORTLAND — The measure was introduced after South Portland officials learned in March that a petroleum storage facility had been exceeding emissions limits for years. READ MORE

Joe Lawlor and Kevin Miller

April 7, 2019

EPA lawsuit over South Portland oil tanks raises neighborhood fears

SOUTH PORTLAND — A noxious odor hung over the Pleasantdale neighborhood one evening last week, undisturbed by a brisk spring wind that swirled dead leaves down the length of Elm Street. READ MORE

Kelley Bouchard

April 28, 2019

South Portland is ready to clear the air around petroleum facilities

SOUTH PORTLAND — A recent lawsuit by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency singled out one petroleum company, Global Partners LP, for allegedly violating the federal Clean Air Act at its terminal and tank farm on the Fore River. READ MORE

Kelley Bouchard


May 2, 2019

EPA extends time to comment on South Portland air emissions settlement

SOUTH PORTLAND — City residents and others will have two additional months to comment on a controversial proposed settlement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Global Partners LP over alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act at its petroleum storage facility on the Fore River. READ MORE

Kelley Bouchard

March 25, 2019

EPA: South Portland oil storage facility violated Clean Air Act, agrees to settlement

SOUTH PORTLAND — Global Partners LP has agreed to pay fines and upgrade its petroleum storage facility on the Fore River after being charged with violating the Clean Air Act for more than a decade, the federal Environmental Protection Agency announced Monday. READ MORE

Kelley Bouchard

March 29, 2019

South Portland council to hold public discussion of EPA lawsuit against petroleum company

SOUTH PORTLAND  — A federal pollution lawsuit against a petroleum company that caught city officials by surprise this week will get a public airing when the City Council meets Tuesday night. READ MORE

Kelley Bouchard


April 2, 2019

While oil company denies violation, South Portland residents air fears over pollution lawsuit

SOUTH PORTLAND — Residents expressed anger and called for action Tuesday night when the City Council took public comment on a federal air pollution lawsuit filed against a petroleum storage facility on the Fore River. READ MORE

Kelley Bouchard