The Department of Justice alleged the Global Companies LLC facility at 1 Clark Road in South Portland has been emitting more than double its licensed volume of volatile organic compounds, which the Environmental Protection Agency says may cause a variety of health concerns. Residents met recently to share their experiences living near the tanks. (Evelyn Waugh photo)

SOUTH PORTLAND — South Portland residents met on July 18 to discuss their experiences living near Global Companies, LLC, at 1 Clark Road. This came after the Department of Justice alleged March 25 that Global is emitting double its allotted volume of volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Global has 10 tanks at its South Portland facility. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) alleges that Global’s heated tanks, which store asphalt and No. 6 fuel oil, have the potential to emit more than 50 tons of VOCs a year: more than double the 21.9 allowed under its emissions license.

According to the EPA, VOCs may cause eye, nose, and throat irritation, headaches, nausea, and damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system. The very young, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems may be most susceptible.

The meeting was organized by Protect South Portland, the group who took on the Portland Pipe Line Corporation five years ago.

“We’re here to say that community is where it’s at,” Organizer July Kline said at the Brick Hill meeting. “As a group, we have power.”

Residents at the meeting said they were “angry, concerned, appalled” at the allegations and at Global’s response.

In June 2014, the DEP alleged Global was in violation of both the Maine Clear Air Act and its emissions license. It issued a similar Notice of Violation in April 2015.

On March 25, the United States Department of Justice, following reports from the EPA, made a public complaint against Global and simultaneously filed a consent decree to recompensate citizens and enforce pollution monitoring near the facility.

“The city was not consulted in any way with respect to the issues identified in the complaint or regarding the consent decree,” the South Portland City Council said in a statement. “Nor was the city even forewarned of the complaint or consent decree’s existence.”

The decree would require Global to pay a civil penalty of $40,000, pay at least $150,000 to fund the replacement of woodstoves in Cumberland County, to install and operate mist eliminators on vents at each heated bulk storage tank, and to apply for a new license from the Maine DEP.

The decree would also limit its heated tanks containing asphalt or No. 6 oil to four bulk storage tanks and limit the amount of asphalt and oil passing through its facility to 74 million gallons per year of asphalt, 50 million gallons per year of No. 6 oil.

The council said that the decree’s proposed resolutions do nothing to mitigate the impacts of emissions or address the claimed violations.

They said the $40,000 fine should be increased and paid to the city, the supplemental measures should be augmented by requiring installation of the best available VOC and odor eliminating equipment, and that the woodstove program should be scrapped and replaced with one that funds air quality monitoring, a public health survey, a public health officer position, and incentivizes the installation of greener heating and cooling equipment for low-to-moderate income households.

Maine Sen. Rebecca Millett, who represents South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, and parts of Scarborough, said it’s disturbing to see the news that’s come out over the spring.

“Astoundingly, we had nothing on the books requiring the EPA to notify the town of the allegations,” Millett said. “Now, that’s on the books.”

On July 18 on Brick Hill, Global tank neighbors complained of experiencing frequent headaches and sensitivity to the oil smells, which they said worsens at night or early in the morning. Several residents complained of frequent nausea, sore throats, fatigue, and headaches

Stephanie Griffin of South Portland said she’s been sick for the year and a half she’s been living near the tanks. “We’ve got horrible asthma. It smells bad in the morning, and late at night,” she said.

Ava Gleason, a 15-year-old South Portlander, spoke at the meeting. “I’m here tonight because I suffer from constant headaches, as does my sister,” she said. “It’s concerning to me that I live in a place with air pollution.”

Kara Auclair helped facilitate the community conversation. Auclair lives in Pleasantville, close to the tanks, she said. She’s an alumnus of the University of New England master of social work program and uses social work on a macro level, organizing to promote social justice.

Dana Colihan, Maine community organizer at Toxins Action Center, took notes at the meeting.

The meeting was a first effort of organizers to bring together the community to share experiences and learn from one another. They plan to meet again soon, and will post meeting dates on their website, www.ProtectSouthPortland.org.

For now, the DEP has placed six monitoring devices in various locations near the Global tank facility.

It also provided South Portland residents air pollutant measurement canisters which the city trained residents on proper use.

Findings from the canister program will be reported at the South Portland City Council meeting on Aug. 20.

“We appreciate the seriousness with which the DEP staff are treating the air quality concerns of South Portland residents,” Mayor Claude Morgan said in a May executive statement. “The city and DEP working collaboratively will result in much better information in the shortterm, and better monitoring in the longterm to help ensure that the air we’re breathing is clean.”

Evelyn Waugh can be reached at [email protected].

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