Kevin Williams, of Wooli Main Street Store, with his now unused petrol bowsers.
Kevin Williams, of Wooli Main Street Store, with his now unused petrol bowsers. Adam Hourigan

Corner store petrol pumps close

THE ‘no fuel’ sign, plastered across the petrol bowsers outside the Wooli Main Street store, tells the story of a grim reality.

State Government regulations, in place to ensure petrol station operators check their fuel tanks and pipes regularly for leaks, have recently driven one of the local ‘little fellas’ out of business.

The Wooli general store’s fuel pumps closed six weeks ago after the owner and manager decided it wasn’t viable to install the required groundwater monitoring wells, as per The Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation 2008.

The regulation stipulates the wells need to be installed by June next year.

Manager Kevin Williams said for his bowsers to comply with the regulation, he or his landlord would have had to fork out at least $25,000.

That included between $15,000 and $20,000 for four wells to monitor levels next to the station’s in-ground fuel tanks, $4000 for an initial testing on the wells, $1000 for an environmental management plan, plus an undisclosed fee twice a year for an inspector to check the levels.

“I said, ‘I’m finished’,” Mr Williams said.

“We hardly sell any fuel. We don’t make anything out of it – it’s just a service for the people of Wooli.”

Mr Williams said he believed the regulation was ‘just money-making’, as he had ‘never had an ounce of trouble’ with his fuel tanks in the three years he was running them.

“The tanks are made out of stainless steel – the fuel’s always been as clean as a whistle,” he said. “They’re never going to leak and never going to rust.”

NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water (DECCW) spokesman Lawrence Orel said when the regulation was developed, ‘careful consideration’ was given to the potential impacts on small rural service station operators.

Iluka Service Station co-operator Ray Lester said it was yet to be decided by his landlord whether or not their business would install the new wells.

“It’s up in the air,” he said.

But he said if the wells were not affordable and the service station was forced to close, it would impact on the locals and holiday-makers.

“It’s more a convenience for the locals – we’re the only service station in town.”

Rest Point Hotel Copmanhurst licensee Chris Hooker said the hotel’s bowser was currently shut down due to BP regulations requiring it to be re-certified.

Mr Hooker said he had since purchased the pump and was awaiting verification that he could repair it. If so, he said, it would not be financially viable to install the requisite monitoring well, but he would do it for the locals ‘so they won’t be stuck out here without petrol’.

Minnie Water general store manager Jim Picone said he had organised for three of the wells to be installed soon.

“We’ve had plenty of time to implement the changes,” he said.

Fuel for thought

 The Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems – UPSS) Regulation came into force on June 1, 2008.

 Requires owners and operators of UPSS to regularly check for leaks in the fuel tanks and pipes.

 Owner/operators required to have: a system for detecting and monitoring leaks; groundwater monitoring wells at sensitive locations and a program to test them; an Environment Protection Plan for the facility; and systems in place for record keeping, reporting of leaks and notifying the local council when a UPSS is decommissioned.

 Regulation aims to: introduce preventative measures to reduce harm to the environment and human health; save money and minimise time-consuming remediation by preventing leaks or dealing with them early; ensure industry best practice is followed; and ensure appropriate validation and decommissioning of systems and sites.

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