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State accuses Brandon gas station owner of environmental lapses

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection contends Automated Petroleum and Energy Company failed to do required maintenance or testing at 10 gas stations in the Tampa Bay area and beyond.
This Mobil Coast gas station at 16055 State Road 52 in Land O Lakes is one of 10 cited in a Florida Department of Environmental Protection lawsuit where inspectors said they found lapses in regularly required tests, maintenance, documentation or other oversight by Brandon-based Automated Petroleum and Energy or its related companies. On Wednesday, the company said the station had already been put back in compliance with state regulations. (Photo via Google street view) [Google street view]
Published Oct. 16
Updated Oct. 16

TAMPA — Florida environmental regulators say a Brandon company that operates gas stations across Florida has not done required maintenance and testing on fuel storage tanks at 10 stations around the Tampa Bay area and beyond.

This month the Florida Department of Environmental Protection sued Automated Petroleum and Energy Company, its owners, William and Kathryn McKnight, and nine related companies in Hillsborough Circuit Court.

“It appears that the issue involves 10 sites out of the 400 sites we operate or supply,” Bill McKnight said Wednesday in an email to the Tampa Bay Times.

“We take compliance seriously, and some of the issues have already been resolved,” McKnight said. “More important, none of these sites involves the release of contamination. Some of the sites have been sold and others newly acquired, so we have asked for a meeting to review each location and to determine what has been resolved and what may still need to be completed.”

The lawsuit cites 36 different instances where regulators said they found problems at 10 gas stations owned by the McKnights’ companies in St. Petersburg, Brandon, Plant City, Land O’Lakes and Holiday, as well as in Manatee, Orange, Osceola counties. The stations cited operated under the Shell, Citgo, Exxon, Mobil and Chevron brands.

At the 10 stations cited, inspectors found problems that included, depending on the location, failing to:

• Do required testing.

• Keep equipment in repair.

• Investigate and document incidents related to, variously, water being found in pipes or the spaces between the walls in double-walled storage tanks, an unrepaired slow drip leak, or other conditions regulators say are associated with possible releases or discharges from tanks.

• Give inspectors access to a storage tank.

• Properly close a tank that was not being used.

The suit seeks a court order requiring Automated Petroleum to correct the problems and fines of up to $10,000 per day for each violation cited.

The company’s website says Automated Petroleum, which goes by APEC, has 37 employees and is a branded wholesaler for Mobil, Sunoco, Chevron, Marathon, Citgo, Shell, Circle K, Spirit, and BP. In all, Automated Petroleum and Energy operates 418 storage tank facilities across the state, the suit said.

Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com. Follow @Danielson_Times

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