MOBILE – The city will fine both Arc Terminals and its business partner, Sulfuric Acid Trading Co., the maximum allowed fine of $298 per day for storing sulfuric acid in an above-ground storage tank without proper permission, according to a statement released late Wednesday afternoon from a spokesman for Mayor Sandy Stimpson.
“The city today notified the companies that they will be fined the maximum amount allowed for every day they have been in violation, dating back to the initial delivery,” George Talbot wrote in the statement. “They also will be fined every day going forward until the sulfuric acid is removed from the site.”
In a statement released Thursday afternoon, Arc management wrote that once they realized they needed approval for the storage they sought and obtained it from the Planning Commission.
“Arc greatly values our long-term relationship with the City of Mobile, and we regret the breakdown in communication during the subsequent appeals process, which has led to this issue,” the statement read. “We are taking prompt action to ensure full compliance with the permit in question.”
Arc officials admitted during a council meeting Tuesday that sulfuric acid has been stored in a tank at the Arc site on Cochrane Causeway since February, despite only having Planning Commission approval for the storage since June. After hearing this information during an appeal of that decision, the council voted unanimously to reverse the approval.
Clayton Curtis, Arc Vice President of Regulatory Affairs told reporters on Tuesday the company was unaware it needed approval to store the acid in the tank that was initially approved for petroleum storage. Curtis said they were alerted of the mistake when their client went to obtain a business license from the city. Curtis said they mentioned the oversight to Planning Commission members.
On Thursday Planning Commission attorney Doug Anderson said Tuesday was the first “Public declaration” that Arc had been storing the acid since February.
“It was never told to the Planning Commission in my presence,” he said.
Anderson said had the commission known of the storage prior to approval, inspectors would’ve been sent out.
Lagniappe has asked for a copy of the minutes from the meeting in question, but the Planning Commission has yet to approve them.
Talbot confirmed through an email message that the fines will date back to at least February and run through June, when the Planning Commission first approved the storage. The fines will pick up again now, after the City Council reversed the decision. He said the total amount of the fines would be determined in court.
Although Arc terminals property is zoned for heavy industry, Planning Commission approval was required when the material being stored was switched from petroleum to sulfuric acid.
“Neither Arc Terminals nor its business partners have approval to store or transport sulfuric acid in the City of Mobile,” Talbot wrote. “By their own admission, the companies have been operating in violation of city law since February.”
Talbot also wrote the city was seeking legal steps in the form of a temporary restraining order to “force the immediate and safe removal of this hazardous chemical.”
“We are disappointed by the irresponsible and reckless behavior displayed by Arc and its partners,” Talbot wrote. “Their disrespect for due process and the safety of our citizens is unacceptable and incongruent with the many responsible businesses operating in and around the Port of Mobile.”
Attempts to reach SATCO for comment have so far been unsuccessful. Planning Commission Chairman Jay Watkins has not yet returned a call seeking comment.
This story was updated to include comments from Arc management and Planning Commission attorney Doug Anderson. The story was also updated to include more information about the fines.