Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image Shell fined £30,000 for petrol leak

A CANCER-causing chemical was found in ground-water contaminated by unleaded petrol leaking from a Bishop’s Stortford filling station.

Borehole samples at the scene in Stansted Road included levels of benzene “thousands of times above the UK standard for safe drinking water”, stated the Environment Agency.

The information was revealed in court evidence against Shell over the leak at its Oaklands Park station, discovered in March last year.

Almost 3,500 litres went missing from the underground tank, polluting a major aquifer, which could potentially be used for drinking water, reported the EA. There was a second leak at the same site the following July.

On Friday, Shell UK Oil Products Ltd, which had earlier pleaded guilty to one charge of polluting controlled waters, was fined £30,000, with £5,608 costs, by a judge at St Albans Crown Court.

There was no separate charge for the July leak, but it was taken into account.

Shell yesterday (Wednesday, 08 November) apologised and said it was committed to professionally cleaning the area.

A spokeswoman said the cleaning process and work on the new tanks was now beginning.

Oaklands Park garage has been closed for months, awaiting refurbishment, which includes replacing single-skinned tanks with double-skinned ones.

It was when the company decided to upgrade that the leak came to light. Staff detected fuel odours in February 2005; engineers located the leak and Shell informed the Environment Agency on March 8.

The Environment Agency and Shell had immediately begun taking samples. EA investigation officer Andrew Pynn said after the case: “Early results have shown minimal risk to existing drinking water supplies, but Shell had put groundwater – a valuable underground resource – at risk of severe contamination.”

The company had accepted there had been a leak of mixed hydrocarbons into the groundwater.

The Shell spokeswoman said: “We have been working with the EA since March 2005. Shell has voluntarily investigated the situation and co-operated fully.

“Our primary objective continues to be the safety of site, staff, customers and local community. We take the responsibility to safeguard the local environment very seriously.”

l In November 2004 families were evacuated when methane gas escaped from Oaklands Park and in July 2003, its liquid petroleum gas dispenser leaked.

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09 November 2006

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