Who’s Monitoring Riverfront Tanks?

Late Thursday afternoon, the City of Mobile filed court documents to force ARC Terminals to remove 1.4 million gallons of sulphuric acid from one of its storage tanks on the Mobile River. Environmentalists say the situation shows that no one is overseeing what is going into the riverfront tanks, and at what volume.

ARC received approval from the Planning Commission in June to convert one of its tanks from petroleum to sulphuric acid storage. The decision was appealed touching off two months of public discussion before the City Council met on Tuesday to determine the ultimate outcome. It was only at that point, council members say, that they were informed by ARC that it had already been storing the chemical since February.

“I assumed everybody knew already,” said ARC Vice President Clayton Curtis. “We were under the impression that it wasn’t going to be a big issue.”

But it certainly was. ARC’s request was denied by the Council and now the company faces action from the city

“The city has issued a fine to ARC,’ said city spokesman George Talbot.

Talbot says the find is $298 a day from the time the sulphuric acid arrived on site in February until June 3rd when the planning commission initially approved the tank re-purposing. The fine picks up again from yesterday. The city has gone to court to get ARC to immediately move the sulphuric acid out.

According to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, ARC is in compliance with its general permits but the agency has set a meeting with the company for August 26th.

ADEM, however, does not closely monitor the storage tanks

“They’re responding to problems. They’re responding to failure,” said Casi Callaway, head of the environmental group Baykeeper

She says the incident shows that no agency is keeping track of what products are being stored in the dozens of tanks on the Mobile River.

“That is the number one question that we have about tank storage in coastal Alabama,” said Callaway. “We don’t have a central point where we know ‘this tank has this in it and at this volume,’ and I think that’s vitally important that we have in the community.”

Mobile Fire Rescue does not keep track of what chemicals are in the tanks, according to a department spokesman.

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