Hess station faces fine for tank problems

MERRIMACK – A Hess gasoline station on Daniel Webster Highway is one of five in the state that faces a fine for failing to correct problems with underground tanks.

Under a notice of noncompliance and permit revocation issued by the state, the station could be shut down in March, said Lynn Woodard, a state Department of Environmental Services official.

However, problems at the Merrimack gas station apparently have been corrected, though the company still faces fines for violating environmental laws, Woodard said.

A phone call to Hess headquarters in New Jersey was referred to a media spokesman, who wasn’t available to comment Monday afternoon.

A state inspection this fall uncovered various problems at the Hess stations, and two specifically at the gas station in Merrimack, Woodard said.

At that station, it couldn’t be determined if an overfill protection valve had been set at the correct level, and a sump needed to be cleaned out so it could capture 5 gallons of spills and drips from the tank, as required by law, said Woodard, the DES’s supervisor of oil compliance and initial response.

The violations do not mean there had been a release of gasoline, Woodard noted. However, it created the potential for a spill to occur, he said.

Each gas station has four underground tanks, each containing 10,000 gallons. The other stations cited with violations are in Manchester and Concord.

“It doesn’t take much MTBE (a chemical added to gasoline) to contaminate the groundwater,” Woodard said.

The amount of the fines would be set according to strict guidelines and could run into thousands of dollars. The problem wasn’t so much that the violations were found when the gasoline stations were inspected, Woodard said.

“These are things that occur at a lot of locations when we inspect them,” he said.

But Hess let slip a 30-day deadline to correct the problems, prompting the notice of noncompliance, fine and March deadline, Woodard said.

“The problem with Hess was that they did not go out and correct this when they were supposed to,” he said. He noted that the violation is serious, as gasoline is considered hazardous, flammable and explosive.

However, since the second deadline, Hess officials have been cooperating with the state, Woodard said.