Alabama woman sues oil company over land contaminated by leaky UST

Beasley Allen attorneys Rhon Jones, Christopher Boutwell, and Alyce Robertson filed a lawsuit March 19 for Susan Taylor, a resident of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Taylor’s lawsuit alleges that her property has been contaminated by a fuel leak originating from an underground storage tank at the Speedmart Fuel Center. Chatham Oil, Inc. owns the Speedmart that sits next to Taylor’s property on University Avenue in Tuscaloosa.

In August of 2007, Taylor and her husband noticed the strong odor of gasoline on their property, accompanied by a petroleum sheen on the surface water that had accumulated on the property. They contacted the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) for assistance. ADEM sent an environmental contractor to Taylor’s property to install monitoring wells and collect soil and water samples.

The testing revealed that fuel from the Speedmart’s tanks had been released, extensively contaminating the plaintiff’s soil, surface water, and groundwater with a number of highly toxic chemicals. Levels of the chemicals benzene and MTBE exceeded the maximum contaminant level in the collected samples.

The lawsuit alleges that the Speedmart’s leaking UST caused substantial and permanent loss of value to Taylor’s property. According to the suit, the defendants were responsible in making sure their fuel tanks were leak-proof, which they failed to do in 2007 and previously in June of 1998. The lawsuit charges Chatham Oil with negligence, wantonness, trespass, nuisance, and strict liability in failing their duty to properly maintain and inspect the USTs.

The removal and cleanup of leaking underground storage tanks is a main initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency, which recently received $200 million in federal stimulus money to allocate amongst states, territories, and Indian land for UST inspection and cleanup.

The U.S. has hundreds of thousands of USTs beneath its cities, towns, and suburbs. A hole the size of a pinhead will allow as much as 400 gallons of fuel to leak through the walls of a UST in just one year, contaminating 400 million gallons of fresh water.

Read the complaint.