Saturday, June 17, 2006

Exxon Goes Three For Three in Destroying Groundwater

Do you remember the Exxon Valdez incident in Prince William Sound twenty years ago? My uncle was infuriated by that bit of corporate idiocy. He is proud to say that he has not purchased gas from Exxon since (as far as he knows-- you see, just because a station says "Sunoco" doesn't mean it isn't Exxon gas in the tank). I used to think his rantings against Exxon were the ravings of an eccentric (it takes one to know one).

But, in just under 4 years, the Gunpowder Valley has seen three major incidents of groundwater contamination by Exxon gas stations:

1. The Exxon station at "Upper Crossroads" (Md 165 and Md 152) in Jarrettsville. Gas station gone. MTBE and carbon filters, still there.

2. The Exxon station in Jacksonville, MD (ironically, just down the road). They lost over 30k gallons of gas (whoops) through a leak, and didn't report the leak for a month. Cleanup could take 15 years just to get the fuel out of the soil. Jacksonville, you will remember, was also victimized 30 years ago by the discovery of contamination of their groundwater by the old Nike missile base in Phoenix.

3. The Parkton Exxon on York Road has been under investigation for some time, according to recent reports in the "North County News". Owned and operated by the Meadowcroft family (they also run stations in Hereford and Maryland Line), they blame people who spill gas and pour out gas cans in their shrubbery. But the volume-- 50 times the standard required to generate a report to neighbors -- is a little too much for that.

So what is going on here? Why are so many Exxon stations having so many problems? I don't know, but I know what to do about it.

First, Exxon should be required to test groundwater samples and wells within a 1 mile radius of their stations where wells are the primary water supply for ALL STATIONS IN THE STATE OF MARYLAND.

Second, Exxon should be required to post a $1 billion bond for cleanup -- renewed annually-- if they want to store, sell, or transport fuel in the state of Maryland.

Third, Exxon should be required to post a $1 billion bond for purchase of homes and businesses whose wells are impacted by fuel leaks.

When a five year period has passed with no reported fuel leaks and no reported contamination, Exxon would not be required to post these bonds anymore.

We hear a lot about how the local station owner/operators make little to nothing on the purchase of gasoline. Fine. That says to me that the station owner/operators have a keen interest on knowing a) how much gas comes in and b) how much gas goes out. You cannot tell me that a family like the Meadowcrofts -- who could pinch a penny out of a stone -- don't have a pretty damn clear idea of how they are losing money on a product they allegedly make so little on.

When Exxon and their owner/operators have shown their ability to effectively management a HAZARDOUS MATERIAL, then they can once again be trusted to operate in an less-regulated environment. Until then, they should be held accountable to the highest standards and regulated like a colon on a high-fiber diet.

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