MULLINS, SC (WBTW) – A Mullins gas station has an extensive history of violating environmental laws, according to documents from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control.
The documents, stretching back almost two decades, were obtained by News13 through a Freedom of Information Request. Totaling more than 1,000 pages, they detail notices and warnings from DHEC to the business about not being in compliance, along with imposing hefty fines that are piling on each other.
The violations revolve around underground gas storage tanks at a gas station located at 104 McIntyre Street in Mullins. Some documents refer to the business as Parth’s Inc. and the 5 Star Food Mart 2. Others reference Jarrell Oil Co. Inc.
DHEC most recently completed Parth’s, Inc. last year. Under an administrative order dated from the summer, the company was required to pay $24,355 by Aug. 13, 2021 – one of the highest fines given by DHEC last year, and a rare amount for a government agency that typically charges between $100 to a few thousand dollars for violations. It had previously been found $7,260.
The most recent list of numerous violations range from not submitting required reports to DHEC, not properly training employees, not doing testing and not completing inspections.
The final payment of that fine is now due on Oct. 9, according to information from DHEC.
“Parths Inc. has completed all of the operational requirements in the Order and is paying the civil penalty in accordance with the terms of a promissory note,” DHEC told News13.
Documents from DHEC sent since the 2000s identify different potential owners. News13 reached out to the one most recently named in the documents, which were sent to an email address for a person named “Roy.” News13 also reached out to a phone number listed in DHEC documents as for the owner, and did not hear a response.
DHEC regulates underground storage tanks and does routine inspections to check if they are compliant with state law, “which are in place to help protect people’s health and the environment,” the agency told News13. “The agency provides compliance assistance to UST owners/operators and appropriately refers them to enforcement for violations that are not in compliance with the state’s UST Control Regulations.”
Up until the mid 1980s, most underground storage tanks were made out of bare steel, which had the potential to corrode and leak contents, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Most of the tanks across the nation hold petroleum and are located at gas stations and convenience stores.
“The greatest potential hazard from a leaking UST is that petroleum or other hazardous substances can seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater, the source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans,” the EPA said in a post. “A leaking UST can present other health and environmental risks, including the potential for fire and explosion.”
A June 9, 2021 document addressed to a PO box in Florence for Jarrell Oil Co., Inc, states that DHEC found petroleum chemicals in the soil and groundwater around the tanks that were above the risk-based screening levels. The company was required to take two groundwater samples that were three months apart. If that data meets DHEC’s requirements, then it would not take further action on the property.
An enforcement referral dated the month before mentioned that the business failed to report a suspected release from the tanks and failed to investigate it within a reasonable time.
Another letter from March 2021 states there was a failed test for a spill bucket/spill prevention. According to the letter, Parth’s, Inc. had to do a soil sampling for each bucket that failed, and needed to repair or replace the spill buckets, along with test their tightness.
Other letters from 2021 mention that Parth’s, Inc., failed testing for overall prevention on all its tanks, failed to provide multiple logs to DHEC and failed to do multiple types of testing.
When a company that owns underground storage tanks fails to become compliant, DHEC can place them under a delivery prohibition that bans them from putting more fuel into the tanks.
A proposed consent letter – which would have made the fines a fraction of the end cost – would have required the company to pay $4,040 and make fixes. Parth’s, Inc. had until Feb. 25, 2021 to sign the letter.
The next month, DHEC sent a letter alerting Parth’s that it would issue an administrative order, and the civil penalty was raised to $7,260.
More documents in 2020 outline violations such as not keeping a monthly operator log, not having operators undergo supplemental training, not testing a protection system at least every three years regarding metals – along with 16 additional listed violations.
Parth’s, Inc. has been temporarily banned from accepting fuel into the tanks on at least one occasion.
Aug. 17, 2020 documents proposed a consent order for an $870 fine, a discount from the $1,450 proposed.
Similar violations documented in more than 1,000 pages of materials are recorded back to at least 2006 and include repeated requests from DHEC to work with the gas station, and warning the owner about potential penalties.
But there aren’t many solutions that DHEC can take.
The letters warn that if violations weren’t fixed, then DHEC might order that gas could not be put in the tanks. DHEC told News13 that if Parth’s, Inc. continues to violate environmental law, that it may face “higher civil penalties for repeat violations.”