CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Lunken Airport’s aircraft operator, Cin-Air LP, pleaded guilty and was sentenced in federal court Tuesday for violating the Clean Water Act by causing and mishandling a jet fuel leak in March 2019 at Lunken Airport, federal authorities announced.
The company was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay a $90,000 fine.
“The defendant’s negligence resulted in a fuel spill that contaminated the Little Miami River, a tributary of the Ohio River,” said Special Agent in Charge Jennifer Lynn of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Ohio. “Today’s sentencing demonstrates that EPA and our law enforcement partners are committed to enforcing laws designed to protect the health of our communities and our natural resources.”
As part of its probation, the company will provide training to all employees on spill prevention and cleanup. It will also publish a full-page acknowledgment of its conduct in Business Air’s FBO Today, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio.
According to the March 21, 2019 plea, Cin-Air’s fuel pump at the Lunken Airport airplane hangar was inadvertently left running overnight after a mechanic refueled an airplane.
A safety switch called the “dead man switch” had been previously altered with a zip tie, causing the switch to permanently stay in the open position.
When Cin-Air employees reported to work the morning of March 22, 2019, they discovered the fuel pump had been running all night and leaking. It was estimated that more than 3,000 gallons of fuel had spilled from the pump during the night.
Cin-Air never notified to the National Response Center and waited about six hours before notifying the Cincinnati Fire Department, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Before calling the fire department, company employees washed down the spill area with water into a nearby storm sewer,” federal officials said in a news release. “Emergency crews traced the fuel spill to a cove of the Little Miami River. No jet fuel was observed in the main river channel.”
Efforts were made to contain and clean up the spill, and about 1,700 gallons of fuel were recovered.
Cin-Air contributed approximately $220,000 toward nearly $440,000 in cleanup costs, federal officials said.