November 13, 2007

Attorney general to issue Flying J's fate


A unanimous vote by the Iowa Environmental Protection Commission on Wednesday put the fate of two Iowa Flying J truck stops in the hands of the attorney general's office.

The meeting between officials with the Department of Natural Resources and Flying J Inc. was to determine the company's responsibility in two petroleum leaks in Clive and Davenport.

Flying J employees at the 11820 Hickman Road location in Clive originally reported the cause of the March 5 leak as a malfunctioning valve. But a report by the DNR showed a failed filter in the truck stop's containment basin allowed the pollutant into Walnut Creek, which runs through the heart of Clive's Greenbelt Park. Six hundred gallons of fuel were recovered during cleanup, according to the DNR report.

Another petroleum leak reported in Davenport in 1999 cost Flying J $6,000 and the cost of cleanup by the city. No fine has been issued yet for the Clive spill.

The truck stops could face fines of up to $5,000 per day per violation, said Bob Brammer, spokesman for the attorney general's office. It would be up to a court to determine the number of days and violations for which the Flying J is responsible.

"We will continue to review the matter," Brammer said. "Ordinarily, referrals from the DNR lead to judicial enforcement by the attorney general's office."

The fines could be significantly greater than the $10,000 cap the DNR could have recommended. The attorney general's recommendation could also include terms to prevent such an incident from happening again.

"We're generally satisfied that with or without any legal actions taken, we're making progress in making improvements," said DNR attorney David Wornson.

The action is encouraging to Clive city officials, who have waited more than seven months for the truck stop to be held accountable.

"(The Environmental Protection Commission) showed no sympathy with them," said Bart Weller, Clive director of public works. "We felt that the appropriate action was taken. We'll see where it goes from here."