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Oil Company’s Spill Prevention Plan Termed Inadequate By EPA

January 15, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday termed inadequate a required oil spill prevention and control plan prepared by Ashland Oil Inc. before its million-gallon fuel spill.

Ashland’s Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures plan, required under federal regulations, ″does not adequately address spill prevention and control specific to the facility; instead, it merely paraphrases the SPCC regulations,″ said a memorandum filed by EPA’s regional Philadelphia office.

The document said the finding of the plan’s ″inadequacy″ was based on a review of the plan and an on-site inspection of Ashland’s Floreffe Terminal near Pittsburgh.

The memorandum was issued to Senate staff members during an EPA briefing on Capitol Hill Friday morning. During the meeting, the staffers were told that an estimated 830,000 people will be affected by the spill, mostly due to depleted water supplies.

The collapse of an Ashland storage tank at the Floreffe Terminal on Jan. 2 sent 1 million gallons of diesel fuel spilling into the Monongahela River. The spill made its way to the Ohio River, disrupting public water supplies in three states.

Ashland’s spill prevention plan had been submitted to the EPA in 1974 and periodically updated before the accident, most recently in 1985.

″The problem is that the spill containment plan appears to be more of a general plan useful at any of Ashland’s facilities,″ said Janet Viniski of EPA’s Philadelphia office. ″It does not contain enough specifics.″

She said it was too early to say whether Ashland could be cited for violations and that ″our real concern is getting the spill cleaned up and making sure the site gets into compliance.″

The tank that cracked was not originally included in Ashland’s plan because it was not installed until last August. Five days after the accident, Ashland filed an amendment to the plan identifying the new tank.

″On that specific instance, you are required to file within six months any amendment of your plan that would have any material impact on spill prevention,″ said Ashland spokesman Roger Schrum. ″The tank was not put into use until August of 1987, so we have until February.″

Schrum disagreed with the EPA’s finding that Ashland failed to properly address oil spill prevention practices. ″Obviously we feel that the SPCC plan meets EPA regulations,″ he said.

In its inspection, the EPA found that the capacity of the dikes surrounding the tank appeared adequate to contain the oil in most situations. But it questioned the engineering design of the intermediate dike, which it said seemed susceptible to a ″wave type, or instaneous release″ such as the one on Jan. 2.

It was in the area of that dike ″where the significant quantity of oil escaped the facility’s containment and entered into a water treatment outfall of the Duquesne Power and Light facility and subsequently into the Monongahela River,″ the EPA said.

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