Keeping Hazards to a Minimum
July 10, 2017
Written By Michelle Cummings
Much responsibility comes with jobs dedicated to reducing risks, protecting people and being a trustworthy steward of our environment, but it’s all in a day’s work for MFA Oil’s Department of Environmental, Health and Safety (EH&S).
The department manages the company’s 260 petroleum storage tank sites, and its primary objective is to protect human health and the environment through routine testing. EH&S staff perform these tests on approximately 1,000 tanks and their respective piping, including continuous leak detection monitoring, for most of the company’s underground storage sites.
“We take a proactive approach to our work to prevent petroleum releases to the environment,” says Tracy Barth, EH&S director. “The company has made considerable investments the past 10 years to replace aging tank systems and retrofit existing systems with electronic leak detection capability. Most of the issues we encounter are discovered during scheduled replacement of our underground storage systems.”
Releases from petroleum storage tanks systems can cause fires or explosions that threaten human safety and can also contaminate groundwater many municipalities and citizens depend on for their water supply. When petroleum releases occur, the EH&S staff oversees the necessary emergency response, site investigation, risk assessment and corrective actions required to mitigate damages and satisfy all stakeholders.
“It can take years to fully understand the impact and cleanup of these sites—especially when groundwater is affected,” Barth says. “We try to do most of the environmental work in-house. Not only does it save the company money, but it gives us a measure of control over the job to ensure it’s done in the most efficient manner. We know our limits, though, and work with excellent environmental contractors and consultants to assist us when needed.”
“Our employees who work in EH&S are very knowledgeable of the various regulations at the federal and state levels,” says James Greer, vice president of supply and government affairs. “They work closely with many stakeholders inside and outside the company to comply with our regulatory obligations and to fulfill the company’s commitment to being a responsible corporate citizen.”
In many ways, the EH&S department’s approach to protecting the environment mirrors that of the company’s farmer-owners.
“We strive to be good stewards of the land and water,” Greer says. “The people in the communities we serve count on us to service their energy needs in a dutiful manner and to keep them safe. We take these responsibilities seriously. We don’t cut corners.”
MFA Oil actively works to upgrade many of its older tanks. Throughout the past 20 years, the company has spent about $20 million on cleanup activities alone, and that does not include costs associated with installing new tanks. MFA Oil has been able to recoup $17.6 million through reimbursements from the Missouri Petroleum Storage Tank Insurance Fund (PSTIF). To date, MFA Oil has received PSTIF funding for cleanup activities at 115 properties in Missouri.
The work of the EH&S department goes beyond environmental. It is also responsible for various aspects of employee safety, insurance, Department of Transportation compliance and homeland security.
From protecting the environment and customers alike to maintaining the company’s driving and automotive records, the EH&S department is indispensable in keeping the company on the right track and operating responsibly.