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.
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.
THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REJECTS CHANGES TO CONSENT DECREE,
BUT WE HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE HEARD
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.
THE CITY OF SOUTH PORTLAND TAKES ACTION
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. They selected the following people:
Brianne Hicknell - Environmental Engineer
Thomas Mikulka - Environmental Scientist/Chemist
Rebecca Boulos - Public Health Official
Joshua Cutler - Member (Retired Physician)
THE COMMITTEE STILL NEEDS AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAWYER
If you are interested or know of someone, Please pass on this information. Applicants do not need to be residents of South Portland. For more information on the duties and goals of this committee and how to apply to be a member of this committee, click this link
PLEASE NOTE: The deadline for application is Nov 8.
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