Feds: Two Elmont gas stations contained unsecure tanks

Business owners allegedly put L.I. groundwater at risk of contamination


A father and daughter have being charged with operating four Long Island gas stations without properly securing underground gasoline storage tanks, federal prosecutors said March 13. The stations — two of which are on Hempstead Turnpike in Elmont — displayed what Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said was “a serious and longstanding disregard for the environment” with their violations. The other stations at which prosecutors said there were unsecure tanks are in Island Park and North Babylon.

According to federal prosecutors, Nedjet Yetim, 50, of Patchogue, and his daughter, Rachelann Yetim, 29, of Floral Park, violatedseveral federal leak-prevention requirements for the tanks, which typically contain large amounts of gasoline and waste oil. The Yetims, prosecutors said, failed to comply with the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, because they did not provide overfill prevention systems or corrosion protection for the gas pipes, maintain records of gas releases, properly cap and secure temporarily closed tanks or cooperate with the Environmental Protection Agency’s requests for information about the tanks, among other violations.

Also named in the complaint are 15 other defendants who prosecutors said are either related to the Yetims or are close associates.

The Yetims face penalties of up to $16,000 per tank for each day of a violation.

The complaint also alleges that there were releases from the tanks at all four stations, each of which is located above a federally designated sole-source aquifer — a water source that supplies at least 50 percent of the drinking water consumed within its boundaries, among other criteria. Prosecutors said that while the violations do not pose an “immediate threat to the drinking water of the area’s residents, defendants’ compliance with the federal leak prevention requirements is vital to ensure the integrity of the tanks and prevent the release of petroleum product to soil and groundwater.”

“These defendants ignored their obligations under federal law to safeguard the public from gasoline and waste oil leaks at their underground storage tanks,” Lynch said in a statement. “These violations demonstrate a serious and longstanding disregard for the environment, for the health and safety of their employees, and for the health and safety of residents of Long Island.”

Judith Enck, the regional administrator of EPA Region 2, added, “The public should be assured that EPA will not stand idly by while owners and operators of underground storage tanks engage in practices that endanger public health and safety. We will continue to pursue prosecution of these and other violators to the full extent of the law.”

The gas stations that are the subject of the suit are the BP at 653 Hempstead Turnpike, the Petro at 1278 Hempstead Turnpike, both in Elmont, a Liberty at 725 Wyandanch Ave. in North Babylon and a Petro at 4305 Austin Blvd. in Island Park.