Transport Company Sued For Clean Water Act Violation After Oil Tanker Truck Spill

At the request of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Environmental Enforcement Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) has filed a suit on Wednesday against Groendyke Transport, Inc. in the District of Colorado for the unauthorized discharge of approximately 190 barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel spilled when one of its tanker trucks overturned. The plaintiff averred that the spill violates the Clean Water Act’s (CWA) prohibition of “the discharge of oil into or upon the navigable waters of the United States.”

Groendyke, an Oklahoma corporation, “owns and operates a tanker truck transport business that transports petroleum and other products.” In 2017, the company acquired and merged with Manweiler Transport, Inc. As the legal successor to Manweiler, the plaintiff claimed that Groendyke is responsible for the August 2016 spill. The plaintiff contended that after the tanker truck crashed in Colorado Springs, the leaked fuel flowed into a storm drain that deposits into Bear Creek then Fountain Creek, “a perennial water that flows into the Arkansas River, an interstate water.”

The defendant’s response contractor coordinated clean-up efforts with the EPA and state and local agencies by “deploy[ing] boom along Bear Creek and remov[ing] oil with a vacuum truck at the storm drain outfall to Bear Creek.” As a result of the spill, the Colorado Springs Utilities closed the intake to a nearby irrigation canal, both “free product” and a “sheen” were visible, and fish were killed as far away as 12.5 miles from the original discharge point.

The plaintiff has sought for the imposition of up to $1,100 per barrel of oil illegally discharged. The civil penalties the United States sought will be deposited in the “Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund” established to “address future discharges and substantial threats of discharges of oil.”

The United States is represented by the ENRD’s Nathaniel Douglas and Heidi Hoffman.