Petrol leak costs Esso

A March 2009 fuel leak at a petrol station has cost Esso and its station operator subsidiary, ROC UK, almost £15,500 in fines and costs.

The companies appeared before Ely magistrates on 31 August and pleaded guilty to causing poisonous, noxious or polluting matter to enter controlled waters. The offences contravened sections 85(1) and 85(6) of the Water Resources Act 1991, for which ROC was fined £7,000 and Esso £3,500. Costs were £2,000 and £2,983, respectively.

The leak occurred at the Esso Villa Service Station, in Trumpington, Cambridge, when 10,000 litres of unleaded petrol leaked into the groundwater. About 7,500l were recovered, but 2,500l remain unaccounted for.

Following a delivery, one of the station’s tanks began to lose fuel. An alarm was activated the following morning, but a sales assistant switched it off and informed his supervisor.

The Environment Agency was not informed of the leak until 1 April. Investigations revealed the tank was heavily corroded and had a hole in it.

 Boreholes on site revealed contamination with petrol, but there was no evidence of the pollution having migrated elsewhere.

After the hearing, agency officer David Griffiths said: “If the automatic tank alarms had been responded to more quickly, it could have greatly reduced the amount of petrol lost.”

Esso told ENDS: “We very much regret this incident. We have already implemented improvements, including improving our service station alarm monitoring and response time.”

Esso was fined £13,500 in February 1999, after 7,000l of petrol leaked from a station near Wimbourne, Dorset, also causing groundwater pollution (ENDS Report 289, p 54).

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