SOUTH PORTLAND — City officials were surprised and unhappy to learn Monday that Global Partners LP has been violating the federal Clean Air Act for more than a decade at its petroleum storage facility on the Fore River and the Environmental Protection Agency has known about it since 2014.

City officials said they should have been notified long before the Portland Press Herald published a story about a lawsuit and a consent decree the EPA filed in U.S. District Court in Portland on Monday.

The consent decree outlines the terms of a proposed settlement that would force Global to pay $190,000 in penalties and reduce emissions at the facility, which is off Lincoln Street, at the end of Clark Road, near the Forest City Cemetery and the Pleasantdale neighborhood.

Global stores asphalt and No. 6 heavy fuel oil in huge heated tanks that have the potential to emit more than 50 tons of hazardous volatile organic compounds into the air each year, the complaint says. That’s more than double the 21.9 tons per year allowed under an emissions license issued by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection in 2013.

The EPA sent Global notices of violations in 2014 and 2015, according to the complaint. The continuing violations were flagged again in 2016, when Global sought a “minor revision” to its emissions license from the Maine DEP.

“I think it would have been courteous of the EPA to let the city know that they were getting higher readings than allowed under Global’s license,” Mayor Claude Morgan said Tuesday. “I don’t know the details of their investigation and negotiations, but if you had two legal teams working out a settlement, would it hurt to pick up the phone and let us know?”

VOCs include a variety of chemicals that may produce adverse health effects such as eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system, the EPA said in the release.

VOCs also contribute to the formation of ground-level ozone. Breathing ozone can trigger a variety of health problems, particularly for children, seniors elderly and anyone with lung diseases such as asthma. Ground-level ozone also can harm sensitive vegetation and ecosystems.

Morgan said the City Council will meet in executive session next Tuesday to review the EPA’s complaint and consider submitting a response to the consent decree. The decree is subject to a 30-day public comment period and final court approval. However, the exact dates of the comment period are “to be determined,” according to the EPA’s website.

Global Partners stores asphalt and No. 6 heavy fuel oil in huge heated tanks that have the potential to emit more than 50 tons of hazardous volatile organic chemicals into the air each year, the EPA says. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Morgan acknowledged that the city doesn’t regulate or monitor air quality, but its concern for the effects of air pollution on residents and the environment is apparent in South Portland’s so-called Clear Skies ordinance.

Passed by the council in 2014, the ordinance banned bulk loading of crude oil onto marine vessels, largely because of potential air-quality impacts. The local law effectively blocked the Portland Pipe Line Corp. from reversing the flow of its 236-mile South Portland-to-Montreal pipeline, which has shipped foreign crude north since World War II but has been used little in recent years with the rise of U.S. and Canadian crude production. The company has challenged the ordinance in an ongoing federal lawsuit.

“Councilors and other residents have been reaching out, wanting to know more (about Global’s violations),” Morgan said. “To the degree that the citizens of South Portland didn’t know this was happening in their community, we’ve been let down.”

EPA spokesman Dave Deegan said the filing of the lawsuit and consent decree on Monday served as notice to the city and the wider public of Global’s alleged Clean Air Act violations.

“As always, EPA’s first priority is to ensure we are protecting human health and the environment, and if this situation required earlier notification to municipal officials, EPA would have done so,” Deegan said in an email.

South Portland firefighters visited the gated Global Partners petroleum facility Tuesday while investigating a citizen’s complaint of an odor in the area of Lincoln and Main streets, Fire Chief James Wilson said. Kelley Bouchard/Staff Writer

Deegan said Global has indicated to the EPA that it is still loading, storing and distributing asphalt and No. 6 heavy oil at its Fore River facility. The company would be required to come into compliance with the Clean Air Act under the proposed settlement, he said.

“It is EPA’s understanding that Global has already implemented at least part of the conditions required under the consent decree to reduce VOC emissions,” Deegan said. “Further VOC reductions are expected once Global implements all of the required conditions.”

Under a proposed settlement with the EPA and the U.S. Department of Justice, Global must apply for a revised license from the Maine DEP and take steps to reduce VOC emissions at the facility.

The revised license would limit the amount of petroleum products that could pass through the facility each year to 75 million gallons of asphalt and 50 million gallons No. 6 heavy oil on a rolling 12-month basis, according to the consent decree.

Global also must install mist eliminator systems on four heated tanks to address local air impacts and implement a program of at least 120 “non-heating days,” when one of the tanks isn’t heated for 24 hours. The tanks are heated to keep the petroleum products liquid.

In addition, the company must pay a $40,000 fine and invest at least $150,000 in a program to replace or upgrade wood stoves in the community. The program will provide vouchers to help people replace or retrofit older wood-burning stoves with cleaner-burning, more efficient heating equipment.

According to the EPA’s complaint, Global Partners owned the facility before 2002 and is liable to pay civil penalties ranging from $32,500 per day for each violation after March 15, 2004, to $97,229 per day for each violation after Nov. 2, 2015.

Based in Waltham, Massachusetts, Global operates 12 of more than 100 large petroleum storage tanks in South Portland, many of which serve seven fuel terminals on the city’s waterfront. Global receives asphalt and heavy oil by barge or truck and stores the products until they are loaded into tank trucks or marine vessels for distribution, according to the EPA’s complaint.

Global issued a written statement Monday saying, “we have reached an agreement to reduce emissions at our South Portland Maine facility and invest in education around replacing wood stoves. We look forward to continuing to work with the community and government agencies.”