The Agency of Natural Resources announced Tuesday, Dec. 26 that Rowley Fuels of Milton, was fined $18,600 for illegally cutting open fuel oil storage tanks and lighting the fuel on fire. These actions violated multiple Vermont Hazardous Waste Management and Air Quality Regulations.
Rowley Fuels distributes heating fuel, propane and other petroleum products, and provides installation and service for related equipment including above-ground fuel storage tanks. Many Vermonters rely on heating fuel for their homes and businesses in the winter, and suppliers provide important materials management services by properly storing, transporting, and disposing of these hazardous products. However, when heating oil is released to the environment, it contaminates soils, groundwater and drinking water, and endangers public health. Because of this risk, hazardous waste generators are responsible for operating in compliance with laws that protect public health and the environment.
In March 2015, the Agency received a complaint of black smoke coming from a facility owned by Rowley Fuels. The Milton Police Department and Agency personnel responded to the scene and found two Rowley Fuels employees had slashed open two old heating oil storage tanks and were burning the excess fuel. The employees stated they were working at the direction of their boss, Scott Allard, and that this was not the first time they had tried to get rid of excess fuel by burning it. Burning heating oil remnants in such an uncontrolled manner sends dangerous toxic pollutants and particulate matter directly into the air at ground level, where they can be easily inhaled.
Agency personnel observed multiple additional violations of the state’s Hazardous Waste Management Rules including improper and unsafe storage, handling, and clean-up of hazardous heating fuel materials. The Agency put Rowley Fuels on notice of these violations, and the company subsequently hired a consultant to conduct a site assessment. The site assessment estimated that 80 gallons of fuel was burned from the perforated tanks, or the equivalent of a large, full home hot water heater. Additionally, the consultant removed the two aboveground fuel storage tanks and excavated approximately 45 cubic yards, or approximately 18 pickup truck loads, of contaminated soil from the property.
“Proper management of petroleum, tank-bottom sludge, and hazardous waste protects human health and the environment,” said Emily Boedecker, Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). “Vermont’s fuel dealers are responsible stewards of our environment while providing an essential service to Vermonters. When open-burning of fuel and harmful release of petroleum do occur, Vermonters depend on the state to hold responsible parties accountable.”
Rowley Fuels has been ordered to stop burning waste fuel and is required to return the company to full compliance with Vermont Hazardous Waste Rules. On Dec. 1, 2017 the Vermont Superior Court’s Environmental Division ordered a penalty of $18,637.50 for the violations.