A South Jersey truck driver was charged after 4,000 gallons of fuel spilled in Delaware County last month, authorities said.
Smith, 36, of Vineland, NJ has been charged with causing and risking a catastrophe, Clean Streams Law violations, and related offenses in connection with the June 11 fuel spill at the Gas N Go in Brookhaven.
"Motivated by a desire to speed up his route, George Smith poured in excess of 4,000 gallons of gasoline over an embankment bordering an elementary school – causing damage to a nearby stream, wildlife, and vegetation and resulting in the closure of the school," DA Jack Stollsteimer said.
"As a fuel delivery driver, the defendant was entrusted with a hazardous product – gasoline – and he owed a duty of care to all of us. He chose self-interest over the safety of the Brookhaven community and the safety of the children at Coebourn Elementary School."
Records obtained from Smith's employer, Lee Transport Systems of Elmer, New Jersey, showed that Smith filled up his tanker truck with 8,500 gallons of gasoline before starting out on his route.
Smith's fourth delivery was scheduled for Brookhaven, but instead, he made that his first stop of the night, he DA said.
Due to the fact that another tanker truck made a stop at the Gas N Go earlier in the day, Smith only filled up the station's tanks with 4,500 gallons, authorities said.
Therefore, Smith would have had to make a partial delivery at his next stop before returning to the fuel depot, which would have lengthened his route, authorities said.
Surveillance video from the station captured the entire incident.
"During the fuel delivery stop, the defendant placed the fuel hose on the ground next to the guard rail," the DA's office said.
"As evidenced by dead vegetation, the defendant’s hose placement in the surveillance video corresponds with the flow path of gas leading down the embankment from the gas station and into a small, wooded area between the gas station and adjacent elementary school."
"Moreover, an overfill warning system consisting of both audio and visual alarms that warns individuals when the underground tanks are reaching capacity was functioning properly," the DA's office added.
"In fact, the overfill warning system triggered during the defendant’s filling of the underground Gas N Go tanks. When the overfill system triggered, the defendant redirected the hose to the guardrail of the property."
The fuel dump's impact has been lethal in the short term and will have a long-term environmental impact.
"Immediately following the incident the Coebourn Elementary School was closed for the remainder of the school year as remediation efforts began," authorities said.
"The environmental impact was immediate and observable with dead wild life — a dead fox, fishes, and eels — in and around the vicinity of the fuel discharge. To date, over 100 large trucks of contaminated soil have been excavated and removed from the site. Additional efforts to remediate, including testing and treating the groundwater, could take years."
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