Sprague Resources LP has agreed to reduce air pollution from heated petroleum storage tanks at its facilities in South Portland, Searsport and five other New England cities, according to a federal lawsuit and proposed consent decree filed Friday.

Under the proposed settlement, Sprague must properly license and take steps to reduce odors and emissions of volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, from heated tanks storing No. 6 heavy residual fuel oil and asphalt.

In addition to Sprague’s facilities in Maine, the settlement applies to tank farms in Everett, Quincy and New Bedford, Massachusetts; Newington, New Hampshire; and Providence, Rhode Island.

The federal Environmental Protection Agency had filed violation notices against Sprague’s facilities in recent years because they were unlicensed to store No. 6 oil or asphalt in heated tanks, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Sprague agreed to the settlement with the EPA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to resolve alleged violations of the federal Clean Air Act and Massachusetts clean air laws, according to an EPA statement.

The terms are designed to bring Sprague into compliance with laws regulating VOC emissions, which are considered hazardous to the environment and human health. VOCs contribute to smog and ground-level ozone and can cause throat and lung irritation, headaches, nausea, organ damage and cancer.


“This settlement will improve compliance with important clean air laws at Sprague’s facilities that have heated oil tanks, which means cleaner air for communities across New England,” said Dennis Deziel, the EPA’s regional administrator.

The Sprague Energy tank farm in South Portland is one of seven facilities that would be subject to the company’s settlement with the EPA. 2009 photo by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

The proposed settlement will be subject to a public comment period, which has yet to be scheduled, and a judge’s review.

South Portland officials had anticipated EPA action against Sprague after a similar lawsuit and consent decree were filed last year against Global Partners LP for VOC violations at its petroleum storage facility on the Fore River.

The EPA’s action against Global rallied opposition from South Portland residents who had been dealing with foul tank odors for decades. The EPA had filed violation notices against Sprague’s facilities in South Portland and Searsport in 2014.

City Manager Scott Morelli said South Portland’s mayor and city councilors will discuss the settlement at an upcoming meeting and determine whether to submit comments on the EPA’s agreement with Sprague.

Sprague representatives could not be reached for comment late Friday.


Sprague’s heated tanks emit VOCs mainly because No. 6 oil and asphalt are stored at high temperatures to keep them in liquid form. The heating causes hazardous substances in the petroleum products to vaporize and be released into the air.

Under the agreement, Sprague must apply for revised state air pollution control permits for facilities in Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The new permits will limit the amount of product and the number of heated tanks storing No. 6 oil and asphalt.

Sprague also must install carbon systems to reduce odors from several tanks in South Portland and Quincy, Massachusetts, which have been the subject of odor complaints from nearby residents.

Sprague’s facility in New Bedford, Massachusetts, must stop storing No. 6 oil and asphalt. The facility would be allowed to operate one asphalt storage tank if Sprague got a permit to do so.

Sprague also must pay a total of $350,000 in civil penalties, $205,000 to the U.S. government and $145,000 to the state of Massachusetts.

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