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Mobil Cited for Inadequate Spill Response at its Utica Facility; Surprise Drill Reveals Numerous Inadequacies; Facility Ordered to Make Improvements

Release Date: 10/27/2000
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(#00203) New York, New York – An unannounced emergency drill conducted on February 23, 2000 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 2 revealed inadequacies in Mobil’s ability to respond to an oil spill at its Utica, New York facility. The company faces up to a $48,200 penalty for these violations of the Clean Water Act and must address the deficiencies in its Facility Response Plan (FRP). This is the second surprise drill conducted by EPA in Region 2.

"This is a big company and it should be able to respond properly to a simulated situation, but it could not," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Regional Administrator. "This facility has a storage capacity of over nine million-gallons and is located adjacent to the Mohawk River and Erie Barge Canal, so if a spill were to occur, it could be a real environmental disaster. This is very troubling."

Mobil was asked by EPA to perform an emergency drill at its Utica facility to simulate how it would react in the event of an oil spill. Among the deficiencies was that Mobil took too long – two hours – to place a containment boom into the Mohawk River, which is used to contain oil if it is spilled into water. EPA has issued a complaint to Mobil seeking $48,200 in penalties and full compliance with provisions of the Clean Water Act that require facilities to have FRPs to respond to emergencies.

Fox, stating that "an ounce of prevention is worth two pounds of cure," hoped that other facilities would renew their awareness that they must be prepared to perform emergency drills. "This is only the second surprise drill EPA has conducted in this Region, but I can promise it will not be the last. We plan to pay unannounced visits to facilities throughout New York State," Fox warned. "I hope this drill and the recent drill at Sun in Rochester send a warning signal to all companies that EPA is serious about making sure companies have proper spill plans and are prepared."

The FRP details the facility’s ability to respond to oil spills, including identification of qualified response personnel and equipment, flowpath of potential spills and vulnerable natural resources, evacuation and notification plans, and response training programs, including drills and exercises. While Mobil did submit a plan, the plan did not meet EPA requirements. The surprise visit to the facility on February 23, 2000, resulted directly from Mobil's failure to develop such a plan, and to successfully implement the plan.