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NJDEP: Health, environment not threatened by Paulsboro oil leak; some residents skeptical

PAULSBORO — Faithful patrons of The Diner on West Broad Street here wondered aloud of the petro stench that had emanated Thursday from the Paulsboro Refinery.

Well before they’d heard the latest on the crude oil spill, skepticism filtered through. After all, even under earlier ownership, the plant had reminded locals of just what is in their back yard.

Memories of some past incidents remain, as Diner owner Dale McIntyre would relate.

As for the latest incident, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) spokesman Larry Hajna on Friday said his agency still doesn’t think Thursday’s leak will bring real health risks to area residents.

Hajna also said about 6.3 million gallons of crude oil – not 6.6 million, as previously estimated – had spilled into a containment berm built to hold much more.

The spill came from one of the refinery’s oil containers, officials had said.

Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno on Friday met with NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin and others at the refinery to discuss the incident.

“There were scattered reports of people with eye irritation … or respiratory irritation,” Hajna said, while maintaining officials don’t expect major concerns.

“The county has gotten maybe about 50 calls, the NJDEP has gotten a few calls, but nothing widespread.

“I was at the site this morning, and I didn’t smell anything myself,” Hajna said.

He added odors could resurface, as recent rain may have broken up the foam crews had been applying to the oil, but workers would continue to pour on the foam.

Hajna explained the NJDEP isn’t concerned the oil will harm nearby waterways orthe municipal water supply. Workers are pumping the oil to tanks quickly enough to help prevent problems, he said.

“The impact to the groundwater would be very minimal,” Hajna stressed. “It’s a refinery, so there’s already some impact.”

But there are also wells to capture substances. And incidents like Thursday’s are very rare, Hajna said.

The refinery tank holds about 286,000 barrels – 12 million gallons – of oil, and the containment area is built to hold 377,000 barrels.

Hajna said crews are also monitoring the air to ensure safety. County, state and federal officials are taking part in monitoring and cleanup efforts.

That cleanup may take several days to complete, Hajna added.

Despite reassurances, at least some residents have their doubts. McIntyre said they’d come earlier for their normal coffee and commentary.

“There was lots and lots of chatter,” she recalled. “People were kind of giggling at (the NJDEP) statement that even at low concentrations the oil could emit a major odor, and have a low risk.”

But roughly six and a half million gallons? That’s quite a bit of oil, patrons said, all the while questioning whether the health risk was truly so low.

One group had recalled a gathering over Java at the old local Dutch Inn years ago, one interrupted by a similar incident, McIntyre said.

“They remembered they were having coffee together, and they smelled the same odor,” she said. “They had to go home and get their children and pets out for a while.”

While such incidents are far from daily, area residents can recall several.

In October 2001, when the Paulsboro Refinery was owned by Valero, about 150 pounds of hydrogen sulfide leaked from the site.

In heavy concentrations, hydrogen sulfide can cause suffocation. And while that didn’t happen in 2001, the incident did cause a scare.

Winds were blowing that day toward neighboring Greenwich Township. There, at Broad Street Elementary School, all children and staff were taken to the gymnasium, and the doors and windows were sealed with duct tape and plastic.

In June 2011, about 600 pounds of hydrogen sulfide was released from the refinery, which by then was owned by PBF Energy.

Students were evacuated from Paulsboro High School due to the overwhelming rotten egg stench, and several students became at least briefly ill.

Hajna at that time said the exposure was not believed to be a real health threat, although an NJDEP investigation and monitoring followed.

As for the oil spill, it wasn’t immediately clear what penalties may be imposed on PBF or the Paulsboro Refinery in particular.

But New Jersey Sierra Club Director Jeff Tittel said the proper penalty could amount “in the millions of dollars … It could be even higher than that.”

Tittel added, however, that lately, enforcement in such matters has been lax. He cited an NJDEP agreement with PBF a year ago, lowering “a proposed $2.3 million air pollution fine to just $796,000, a $1.5 million reduction from the level recommended by enforcement staff.”

Tittel argued that such variation from a recommended penalty encourages companies to risk taking lower fines rather than buckling down on environmentally dangerous practices.

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Difference: Oil Tank Removal vs Oil Tank Abandonment!

www.steve-rich.com provided the difference between the Oil Tank Removal and Oil Tank Abandonment. Scroll Down for Tank Abandonment.

Tank Removal

There are several reasons why you would want to remove your underground storage tank. If you are converting to natural gas or installing an above ground storage tank for your home heating needs. Most importantly, SREC strongly recommends removing your underground storage tank if you plan to sell your home. Selling your home is stressful enough even without any major complications.

However, having your tank removed, inspected and the soil tested will eliminate any potential problems you would have encountered if your tank remained on your property. Removing your underground storage tank and obtaining closure will satisfy the most stringent of home inspections or due diligence by future homebuyers.

SREC can help, beginning with a free consultation.

If you choose to contract SREC to remove your tank, our helpful staff will acquire permits, obtain utility markouts*, and make arrangements with municipal inspectors in order to prepare for your tank removal. Our experienced personnel will efficiently and properly complete your tank removal in four to five hours leaving you with Peace of Mind.

What you can expect:

• Safety is a primary concern for our company. Our team will confirm the location of underground utilities before beginning the tank removal process.

• Once the underground storage tank (UST) is located, a small track excavator will be used to expose the tank.

• The UST is then cut open and the contents, usually fuel oil and sludge, are removed with a licensed vacuum truck and transported to a certified liquid disposal facility or transferred, at your request, to a newly installed AST.

• Fully covered in protective gear, a representative from SREC enters the tank to clean it with absorbent pads and a squeegee.

• The UST is then removed with the excavator and inspected for holes or signs of corrosion by both SREC personnel and the municipal inspector.

• Upon completion of the inspection of both the tank and its grave, the excavation is filled to grade with certified clean fill. A 550-gallon tank removal typically yields a 6 foot by 8 foot excavation area roughly graded. A 1000-gallon tank removal typically yields a 6 foot by 13 foot excavation area roughly graded.

• A sales representative will provide a completed tank certification booklet to you. It includes:

• Copy of local permits • Tank disposal receipt 
• Tank contents manifest • Certified clean fill receipt
• Certificate of removal and a copy of SREC New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection tank removal license

* Please note that a minimum 4-day period from the contract date is required before work can begin in order to properly obtain utility markouts.

Tank Abandonment

In recent years, the NJDEP recommends and most insurance companies require tank removal over tank abandonment. However, in the event that there is no access to the tank due to either landscape or structural impediments, tank abandonment may be necessary.

As we do with our tank removal, SREC will again take all steps necessary to provide you with superior service and properly abandon your tank in just a few hours. Once your tank is cut open and cleaned, our highly trained personnel will core holes through the bottom of the tank and extract soil samples to confirm the integrity of the soil.

These samples will be sent to an NJDEP certified lab for analysis. The empty tank will be filled with inert material such as sand or concrete slurry. The 4 foot by 4 foot excavation will be filled to grade with certified clean fill.

Upon completion, a completed tank certification booklet will be provided. It includes:

• Copy of local permits • Tank contents manifest
• Certified clean fill receipt • Certificate of abandonment 
• Copy of SREC / NJDEP tank removal license

*Please note that a minimum 4-day period from the contract date is required before work can begin in order to properly obtain utility markouts.

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Information Regarding Oil Tanks Removal Government Grant/Insurance/Funding

Pollution liability caused by leaking oil tanks has become a major problem in New Jersey. Costs to clean up environmental damage, particularly damage to water supplies or acquifers, can run into millions of dollars.

Currently, homeowners policies provide pollution coverage for liability caused by above ground or underground oil tanks up to the homeowner’s policy liability limits.  Most policies do not provide coverage for pollution damage to a homeowner’s premises unless the pollution is caused by a covered peril.

In  2005, the Department  permitted the Insurance Services Office  to implement a $10,000 first party remediation coverage which would also provide a  $50,000 liability limit for the  escape of liquid fuel and lead liability limitation with a 1% reduction in the current loss cost and options to purchase higher limits.  

Several companies impose surcharges for the presence of oil tanks on the premises. Other companies have been given Department approval to exclude pollution liability caused by oil tanks with an option to buy-back the pollution liability coverage for an additional premium. The “buy-back” of oil tanks coverage may not be available for insureds with old oil tanks (over 20 years) and the “buy-back” may only be offered once to new applicants.

Since all oil tanks will ultimately leak, the Department urges all homeowners with oil tanks to have their tanks tested and inspected and to replace old oil tanks to protect New Jersey’s environment and to prevent a homeowners pollution liability loss.

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iPhone Real Estate App Showdown

The real estate application category on the iPhone really seems to be filling out. When the upgraded version of the software launched in July, Puluwai was the only real estate specific search tool (see 5 Apps Every Real Estate Agent Should Have on Their iPhone).
But that’s now changing and it looks like there is an epic battle brewing for screen space on my phone.
Trulia iPhone application
Trulia’s app is notable because of the prominence they give to open houses on the home screen. I think this is a wise choice, since people will likely be using this app as they are out and about and will want to find out what’s open near them to go have a look.
The search experience was very easy on Trulia’s app – simply pushing the ‘All homes for sale’ button takes you to a list of all the properties near you. (Your definition of “All Homes” may vary).
Searching all homes, it was a bit frustrating because wasn’t immediately obvious how the results were returned – it didn’t seem to be sorted by price or even distance away. Using the Custom Search option does let you get a little more specific on how those results are returned however.
Personally, I would have loved to be able to refine the search from the All Homes results page to weed out the listings that didn’t fit what I was looking for. Unfortunately instead, Trulia makes you go back to the beginning and start over again.
The biggest disappointment with Trulia’s app however are the listing pages themselves. Next to Utopria’s offerings they pale in comparison (see Utopria Brings Property Listings to iPhone) Only one photo? Really?
Also, it’s great that you can show me where the property is on a map, but what does staring at a pin from space really tell me? I want a little more.
StreetEasy Real Estate
StreetEasy doesn’t waste any time. The New York based real estate site just takes you right into the search results as soon as you fire it up. I actually kind of enjoyed this – the less decisions I have to make up front the better. Let me get right to the meat and then let me start carving away.
(Though I have to say, the fact that the top listing it returned on its default search was an $80 million, 4 bedroom Central Park apartment made me feel more than a little bit inadequate.)
Clicking on the Edit Search button lets you refine the results and StreetEasy makes good use of the iPhone UI elements to make the refinement easy and enjoyable – lots of tumblers to spin up and down. Making search fun is one of the things the iPhone can be great at.
On the whole, StreetEasy succeeds where Trulia fails – showing you all the photos associated with a particular listing. Clicking on the thumbnail floats all the images upwards to a gallery like environment you can thumb through. I also loved the fact that the app lets you pull up the details on the building that a particular apartment is in.
Further, StreetEasy makes it really easy to tab between the listing description, the map and the agent’s contact information. Trulia struggles to accomplish this with a slightly clumsy popup menu.
HomeFinder
HomeFinder was created by developer Brandon Alexander (Alexander Mobile) and claims to bring over 4 million listings to the iPhone. Listings are drawn from Google Base, FSBO websites and feeds from several large MLSes and brokerages (not identified).
Compared to the two previous offerings, it’s pretty bare-bones, yet functional. HomeFinder gives you loads of options to filter a search – but it also kept crashing whenever it returned the results. So I’m going to have to withhold judgment on this app until we see a new revision.
So what’s the verdict?
StreetEasy’s iPhone app blows the competition out of the water in terms of ease-of-use, functionality and sheer slickness. Unfortunately it’s only available in New York City.
Trulia’s app looks great, gets off to a good start and then falls flat on its face. Frankly disappointing and hopefully future versions will add some of the missing features.
The others (Puluwai and HomeFinder)… well, compared to their commercial competitors, feel unpolished and struggle due to poor data sources.
So for now, there’s no clear winner. Unless you live in New York.

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