September 19, 2014

Elyria
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State sues Liberty Gas over alleged violations

ELYRIA — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has sued the owners of Liberty Gas USA over pollution and regulatory violations at gas stations the company operates in Elyria and Lorain.

Workers dig into the concrete at the Gas USA state on Middle Avenue in 2008 as they work to get to the source of a leak.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Lorain County Common Pleas Court, alleges numerous violations dating back years that can be fined at a rate of $10,000 or, in some cases $25,000, per day.

 

“The goal of the lawsuit is to bring the sites into compliance with Ohio environmental laws and underground storage tank laws,” Dan Tierney, a DeWine spokesman, said.

He said the majority of such lawsuits are resolved through consent agreements that require the problems to be fixed by the companies in violation and that is the hope with the lawsuit against Liberty Gas USA.

Many of the allegations in the lawsuit deal with how the company handled a May 28, 2008, gasoline leak at its 824 Middle Ave. station in Elyria.

In that incident, the lawsuit said, gasoline fumes forced the evacuation of nearby homes when hundreds of gallons of gas leaked out of underground storage tanks into the sewer system.

The lawsuit contends that even after the gasoline was collected, the company’s owners — John and Elham Harb, who also are named as defendants in the case — failed to take proper steps to address the leak until June 23, during which time additional gasoline leaked.

There also wasn’t a proper vapor control system or a method in place to keep track of how much gas was being stored and used at the Middle Avenue station, according to the lawsuit.

The state has also accused Liberty Gas USA of operating both the Middle Avenue site and its gas station on Grove Avenue in Lorain without proper permits and testing.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.