Area oil firm under investigation
An investigation is under way at an oil recycling firm south of Hazleton where vehicles of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection were parked and an excavating machine was at work Wednesday afternoon.
At Hazleton Oil and Environmental on state Route 309 in Banks Township, workers congregated inside a fence around a tank farm where they set up two blue canopies as protection from the sun. Some workers donned hard hats, and at least one man wore a protective suit of shiny yellow.
The company issued a statement saying it was cooperating with investigators.
“Working with government inspectors and agents is not uncommon in the highly regulated business of used oil recycling,” the statement said.
Hazleton Oil will comment further after learning more about the focus of the investigation, the statement said.
DEP spokeswoman Colleen Connelly said in an email that search warrants were served at the company on Tuesday.
The search is part of an investigation by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Office of the Pennsylvania Attorney General, which is the lead agency, Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, spokesman for the office, said in an email.
Last year, a DEP inspector visited the company to investigate a complaint that petroleum contaminated with waste was dumped outside fences.
The inspector found “an old pile of fill material with scrap metal and land clearing and grubbing waste mixed in,” but saw no illegal solid waste disposal nor smelled any petroleum, according to the inspection report of June 10, 2011, that is on file in the department’s regional offices in Wilkes-Barre.
In March 2011, the company received a notice saying that an storage tank hadn’t been inspected or an inspection report hadn’t been sent to the DEP.
Hazleton Oil and Environmental paid a civil penalty of $750 in for discharging stormwater after a permit expired, according to a consent decree of Oct. 1, 2010.
On July 20, 2005, a fire broke out inside a garage at Hazleton Oil and Environmental when a pilot light on a propane heater ignited vapors from floor cleaners and degreasers.
The fire spread to a roll-off container for debris contaminated with oil, to empty boxes and to boxes holding computers, a DEP inspector wrote a week later. Firefighters contained 6,000 gallons of water used to extinguish the fire inside the garage to prevent the possible spread of contamination.
After the fire, the company submitted a list of actions planned to prevent other fires and revised its fire prevention plan.
In February 2005, the DEP found total halogens in oil retained at the company exceeded permitted limits in one of 10 samples taken. In response, the company said a driver who failed to test contents of two drums before hauling them was fired. Also, the company stopped using a device referred to as a sniffer to test for halogens because the sniffer gave a false reading.
In 2004, the company also paid a civil penalty of $5,500 for accepting hazardous waste from a supplier in Harrisburg in violation of its permit.
The violation happened in May 2003 under previous owners.
Sloan R. Six and her husband, Scott Clemens, purchased the company in August 2003. The company started in 1961 as Hazleton Oil Salvage.
A remedial investigation conducted after the sale on behalf of the previous owner, Umbriac Enterprises, said benzene and other components of gasoline released from a gas station and bulk storage facility at the site in the 1980s entered soil and shallow groundwater. State law exempted Six and Clemens from responsibility for environmental damage that occurred before they purchased the property, the remedial investigation by Patriot Environmental Management of Douglassville, Berks County, said.
Hazleton Oil and Environmental has a mailing address of 300 Tamaqua St., Hazleton, and state records point out that the site is on the border of Carbon and Schuylkill counties.
The company recycles used oil, used anti-freeze, oily water, non-hazardous liquid sludge, oil filters and soil contaminated with petroleum, according to the annual report for 2010 that it submitted to the DEP.
Previously, the company helped the Hazleton Area School District and Hazleton General Hospital manage recycling programs. Hazleton Oil and Environmental also raised money and awareness about preventing breast cancer through public events and by painting one of its tanker trucks pink.
By KENT JACKSON (Staff Writer)
Published: June 21, 2012