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Report: DEC fined U.S. Salt for brine, oil spills in Seneca Lake


WATKINS GLEN — U.S. Salt was fined $57,500 for chloride, brine and oil discharges into Seneca Lake over the past decade, penalties imposed by the state Department of Environmental Conservation and contained in 2012 and ’16 consent orders.

At a Friday news conference, Walter Hang of Toxics Targeting Inc., an environmental database firm in Ithaca, revealed the consent orders.

Hang said a May 2012 consent order fined the company $30,000 for exceeding its wastewater discharge permit over a five-year period.

A May 2016 consent order imposed a fine of $27,500 for toxic discharges originating at the Crestwood/U.S. Salt facility in Reading.

Hang made the petroleum and brine spills public this past August. The consent orders were not released until now.

“Citizens who live on and around Seneca Lake should be appalled that DEC failed for nearly a decade to prevent U.S. Salt from repeatedly polluting one of the most treasured lakes in the world,” Hang said. “DEC obviously cannot safeguard Seneca Lake from improper waste discharges from U.S. Salt due to the agency’s shockingly inadequate enforcement record.”

Hang also criticized U.S. Salt for misleading the public about its regulatory compliance efforts by failing to disclose the fines imposed by the DEC for multiple wastewater discharge violations.

“Residents who want to protect Seneca Lake simply cannot trust U.S. Salt to be honest about its horrific environmental track record,” Hang said.

U.S. Salt issued a statement in response to Hang’s press conference.

“U.S. Salt has been a proud member of the community for over 120 years,” company President Don Krider said. “Our plant handles well over 1 million gallons of brine a day and, as a result of Crestwood’s multi-year investments and emphasis on compliance, our average daily chloride discharge is now about 60 percent of its permitted limit. We remain focused on improving our performance and being a good neighbor.”

Here is a look at the two consent orders:

• The first is dated May 4, 2012. It states that during the period of November 2007 to March 2012, U.S. Salt discharged chloride or salt pollutants in the lake on 23 occasions that exceeded the effluent limitations of its permit, a charge the company did not dispute.

• The second is dated May 12, 2016. It states U.S. Salt discharged chloride pollutants into the lake that exceeded the permitted daily maximum effluent limits. Specifically, the consent order listed several instances of discharge of brine solution and one case of a hydraulic oil discharge. The company was ordered to pay a $20,000 fine, with the remaining $7,500 suspended if it complied with the consent order in a timely manner. The company was ordered to update its Best Management Practices plan document.

The consent orders drew the ire of Gas Free Seneca, a group strongly opposed to Crestwood Midstream’s plan to store liquid propane in underground salt caverns on the southwest side of Seneca Lake.

“The more we learn about Crestwood, the worse they sound,” Gas Free President Joseph Campbell said. “A Texas-based operation that is consistently fined for safety and environmental violations has no place in our community. ... It is a lose-lose foe the Finger Lakes and we urge the governor to deny the necessary permit for this project.”

Toxics Targeting has written Gov. Andrew Cuomo requesting that he adopt a moratorium on all approvals related to fossil-fuel-infrastructure projects.