A Providence, Rhode Island resident alleges Sprague Operating Resources has unlawfully allowed noxious odors to escape into neighborhoods adjacent to its oil and natural gas facility as a result of “inadequate” emissions containment efforts.
According to the 14-page suit, the odors emanating from the petroleum storage facility operator and natural gas, coal and gasoline wholesaler’s plant are the subject of frequent complaints from those in the nearby area, who describe the smell as, among other harsh descriptors, an unpleasant “fuel burning, chemical odor.”
The plaintiff claims she’s “often unable to open” her windows due to the odors. According to the suit, numerous residents within the “class area” have contacted the plaintiff’s counsel with documentation of the noxious odors they attribute to the defendant’s petroleum storage operations.
The lawsuit alleges Sprague Operating Resources has “intentionally, recklessly, willfully, wantonly, maliciously, grossly and negligently failed to properly construct, maintain and operate the facility,” and is responsible for the invasion of noxious odors onto the plaintiff and proposed class members’ properties.
Per the suit, those residing around the defendant’s facility have reported there are days on which they cannot open their windows in light of the “terrible” “acidy smell” resembling gasoline. Further, some residents have reported choosing on occasion to stay at another location instead of their homes, while others report visitors cannot gather outside, due to the smell. Another putative class member relayed to the plaintiff’s counsel that the smell resembles “oil or tar burning…” that made “you want to hold your nose,” according to the suit.
As the case tells it, the defendant possesses a well-documented administrative record of noxious odor incidents. For instance, there were “in excess of 100” citizen complaints filed between February 2018 and February 2020 with the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) regarding the smell drifting from the defendant’s facility, the lawsuit says. In May 2019, the RIDEM issued a notice of violation to Sprague due to its release of “. . . air contaminants which creates an objectionable odor beyond the property line” of the company’s facility, the case shares.
The Rhode Island Attorney General stepped in on January 28, 2020, submitting a letter to the defendant’s counsel over continuous complaints of the noxious odor “unreasonably interfering with the health, safety, peace, comfort and convenience of the community,” the lawsuit adds.
As a result of the noxious emissions problem, the United States Environmental Protection Agency required Sprague to enter into a consent decree in which the company agreed to pay civil penalties due in part to its operation of the petroleum facility, the complaint continues.
All told, those living near Sprague’s facility have suffered “serious discomfort” and the loss of use and enjoyment of their properties due to the odors produced by the company’s operations, the plaintiff alleges.
“The noxious odors emitted from the facility are offensive, would be offensive to a reasonable person of ordinary health and sensibilities, and have caused property damage,” the suit relays, noting the area around Sprague’s facility is home to “a wide range of commercial and recreational activities” in addition to residences.
The lawsuit looks to cover those who own or rent residential property within one mile of Sprague Operating Resources’ Providence, Rhode Island facility.
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