Marshall Mott-Smith, who worked with the Florida Department of Environmental (FDEP) regulation for 27 years, believes the fuel leak at the Hopkins Generating Station could have been avoided.
When he left FDEP in 2008, Mr. Mott-Smith was the Administrator of the Storage Tank Regulation Section. He worked with nearly 50 DEP District Tanks Program staff that averaged 30,000 inspections a year. Mott-Smith also wrote regulations that required all storage tank systems to have secondary containment by January 1, 2010.
Mott-Smith told the Tallahassee Democrat earlier this week, “The rule says that you have to do monthly leak detection. You have to look for leaks. And with double-walled tanks, you have to look in the interstice once a month and look for the presence of whatever is stored in the tank.”
Referring to the fuel leak at Hopkins Generating Station, Mott-Smith said, “In this case, had they looked in the interstice, they could have found the product before it escaped in the environment.”
FDEP inspection records indicate the City of Tallahassee was not properly monitoring the tank when the leak occurred.
Listed below is the image of the FDEP tank inspection report, dated January 20th, 2012, that concluded that the Hopkins plant was “out of compliance” and in violation of a state rule that required tank monitoring.
The last violation free inspection report for the storage tank that leaked in 2012 was May 11, 2011. It appears the City of Tallahassee could not explain when or why the monitoring of the tank ceased.
In early March, 2012, FDEP discovered more violations at the Hopkins Generating Station. FDEP found four storage tanks at Hopkins that were not sealed with DEP-approved sealant. The city responded to the violation by coating containment areas with the proper sealant.
FDEP reported that the city had corrected the violations by July 30, 2012.
TR could find no public discussion with elected officials about these violations.
Also, the City of Tallahassee filed a lawsuit against the city vendor that was hired to refurbish the Hopkins fuel tank that leaked. Did the FDEP violations impact the city’s ability to recover damages caused by the fuel leak?
TR will continue to seek answers.