SOUTH PORTLAND — A new law requiring the state to notify cities and towns of environmental violations by regulated industries has been put to use. And the violator is the same company that inspired the law.

The Maine Department of Environmental Protection issued a letter of warning July 18 against Global Partners LP, a Massachusetts-based petroleum company that operates a shipping terminal and tank farm on the Fore River in South Portland.

The statute was passed after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency filed a lawsuit and proposed consent decree in March charging Global with violating its emissions license issued by the DEP under the Clean Air Act. South Portland officials and residents were surprised and angered that neither agency notified the city about alleged air quality violations that had been going on for several years.

The letter of warning says Global was seven days late in submitting a compliance testing report that was due July 5. The testing was done June 5 on a vapor combustion unit that incinerates emissions released when petroleum products are loaded from large storage tanks into tank trucks. The results reported July 12 were found to be in compliance with the facility’s emissions license.

However, the DEP also issued a notice of violation June 5 charging Global with burning fuel in two boilers that contained more sulfur than allowed under Maine law. In April, the DEP performed a routine inspection that found Global was using No. 6 residual heavy fuel oil that contained 1.6 percent sulfur. That’s more than three times the 0.5 percent allowed under a 2018 statute that lowered the allowed limit from 2 percent.

Burning fossil fuels containing sulfur is a major source of sulfur dioxide gas, which smells like burnt matches, contributes to smog and acid rain, and is a major breathing irritant. Maine has the sixth-highest asthma rate in the nation – 11.2 percent of its 1.3 million residents – according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Global’s air pollution license from the DEP allows the facility’s 12 storage tanks and other equipment to emit up to 51.3 tons of sulfur dioxide gas per year. Global now fires the boilers with natural gas.

“The supply tank with the noncompliant fuel was emptied, and we have implemented protocols to ensure the miscommunication that resulted in the violation will not happen again,” Bruce Yates, Global’s terminal manager, wrote in a June 7 letter to City Manager Scott Morelli.

“We apologize for this incident,” Yates continued. “Global takes seriously its responsibility to comply with the law and act as a good operator in the City of South Portland. We look forward to the opportunity to demonstrate that commitment moving forward.”

The DEP is drafting a consent decree to formally address Global’s missed deadline and sulfur violation, said David Madore, agency spokesman. Morelli posted a notice Wednesday about the violations on the city’s website and Facebook page.

“The city is committed to sharing information about any violation that may in any way impact residents of South Portland,” the notice says.

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