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Gibbs’ Owner Fined $200,000 for 2008 Leak

The owner of the now-closed Gibbs Oil Company service station located at the corner of East Main St. (Route 16) and Cedar St. (Route 85) last month agreed to pay $200,000 to the state for failing to notify the proper authorities that 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel had leaked from an underground storage tank between April and July, 2008. The service station has remained closed since that leak.

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced the settlement agreement with Vincent Curatone of Concord on October 27, saying that Curatone also will pay for annual environmental audits for the next three years at each of the filling stations he owns, will maintain functioning tank monitoring equipment at those stations, and will secure training for himself and his employees in the proper operation of tank monitoring equipment and in spill prevention and reporting, according to a prepared statement from Coakley's office.

On July 28, 2008, Fire Chief John Touhey told the Board of Selectmen that service station employees notified the Fire Department and the state Department of Environmental Protection on July 20 that year about a "loss of product" which the chief estimated at 10,000 to 12,000 gallons – roughly the equivalent of a gasoline tanker load of fuel. By that selectmen's meeting, 10,000 gallons had been recovered from the ground, the chief said.

"Diesel's less volatile than gasoline," Touhey explained, saying that probably aided recovery efforts.

The cause of the leak was employees tapping a gauge stick against the bottom of the fiberglass tank, which eventually wore away a quarter-sized hole, Touhey explained. The tank in question was installed in 1983, before newer regulations required a "striker plate" in that spot to help prevent such leaks, he said.

Most other service stations in town now have modern double-walled tanks that are designed to catch and hold fuel leaks, the chief added. "The newer tanks take the human error factor out of it," he said.

"They've done a great job of remediating it so far," Touhey said about the leak. "It appears that the release is contained to property at this point." The goal of the clean-up crews at the site is "to recover all product from the ground," he added. "Hopefully, they've captured it before it migrated off that property."

Monitoring wells are being used in the area surrounding the gas station to see if any fuel is moving off the site, and the station itself will have to be de-commissioned, the chief said.

Touhey said the station had an automatic inventory control monitoring system that – if employees had looked at its reports – would have clearly indicated that fuel was leaking from the tank for two weeks before the "catastrophic loss" of 3,500 gallons.

"Their in-tank gauging system was indicating a failure on that tank for at least 10 days," Touhey said. Gibbs management and employees did not "review the reports on a timely basis," and his department should have been called on the first day the tank started leaking, he said in 2008.


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