MOUNT VERNON — Out of sight isn’t necessarily out of mind, the Mid-Ohio Transit Authority discovered lately when they were assessed a $1,500 penalty by BUSTR, the Bureau of Underground Storage Tank Regulations, a division of the State Fire Marshal’s office.
According to paperwork submitted to the Knox County Board of Commissioners by Jim MacNaughton of MOTA, BUSTR levied the fine against MOTA and/or Knox County because their inquiries about follow-up investigations into a small fuel spill which was discovered 14 years ago have gone unanswered.
“This is a perfect example of bureaucracy run amok,” Commissioner Allen Stockberger said when the county was first notified.
The history outlined in the paper trail is that a set of three underground fuel tanks (5,000 gallons, 8,000 gallons and 10,000 gallons) were removed at the MOTA facility at 25 Columbus Road on May 18, 1995. Benzene tests in the cavity at the time showed levels of 24.3 parts per billion. A level greater than 5 ppb is considered a violation.
A smaller, 1,000-gallon tank was removed on June 21, 1995. Benzene testing around the small tank cavity showed a higher level of benzene at 1.26 parts per million, as well 14.2 ppm of toluene, 71.1 ppm of ethylbenzene, 330 ppm of xylene, and 4,790 ppm of TPH.
According to BUSTR, a site assessment letter was sent in September 1995. After the assessment was completed in May of the following year, BUSTR allegedly directed MOTA to define the spill/pollution further and submit documentation about sampling, field screening and methodology. MOTA allegedly responded that the contamination was so small that it needed no further definition.
The battling between the two agencies continued, off and on, for the next 10 years, before BUSTR referred the matter to enforcement in late 2006. Despite claims by BUSTR they contacted Knox County at this point, current staffers and commissioners at the county are unaware of any such communications from the State Fire Marshal’s office, and only became involved once MacNaughton forwarded the matter to the commissioners in late May.
According to commissioner Teresa Bemiller, BUSTR refused to meet with the commissioners and declined to rescind the fee assessment, which called for the fine to be paid by June 12, or else face fines which could be set as high as $10,000 per day up to a potential penalty cap of $1,000,000.
Finding no way to maneuver around the penalty once the situation had progressed to enforcement, the commissioners advised MOTA to go ahead and pay the fee assessment, and have entered into discussions with Geotechnical Consultants, Inc., of Westerville to perform earth boring and testing to prove officially that the small amount of contamination from 14 years ago has since dissipated.