Cumberland Farms Settles Gas Leak Case

Retailer donating to emergency responders after destructive chain reaction

Cumberland Farms

KINGSBURY, N.Y. -- Cumberland Farms is donating $15,000 to local emergency response agencies to settle a charge over a 2011 gasoline leak that triggered a complex, destructive chain reaction.

According to The Post-Star, the case dates back to December 2011, when a vehicle hit a gasoline pump at a Cumberland Farms store in Hudson Falls, N.Y. The collision broke a pipe feeding the pump, unleashing an estimated 1,000 gallons of gasoline into the storm drain. After the fuel flowed downhill to nearby Fort Edward, N.Y., its fumes ignited into a series of underground explosions, blowing manhole covers into the air and cracking streets and foundations. The financial impact totaled in the “hundreds of thousands” of dollars.

A criminal investigation by the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) found that the store’s gas pumps appeared to not have a required emergency shutoff switch. Firefighters had to shut off the store’s power to stop the flow of gasoline.

Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said that 560-store Cumberland Farms, based in Framingham, Mass., “debated” whether the site had the required shutoff switch. According to the DEC investigation, however, the switch was not easily accessible to employees, who also were not adequately trained to handle the fuel leak.

“You had a mix of mechanical failure and human error,” Jordan said.

Cumberland Farms was charged with a misdemeanor violation of state conservation law because of the lack of leak prevention safeguards. While not admitting guilt, Cumberland Farms did agree to an “adjournment in contemplation of dismissal” with the prosecution, and entered into a plea agreement to donate $3,750 each to the Hudson Falls and Fort Edward fire departments and the Hudson Falls and Fort Edward police departments to compensate them for their response to the incident.

According to the plea agreement, the charge will be dropped in six months assuming the donations take place.

In a statement to The Post-Star, Cumberland Farms spokesperson Carin Warner said: “Cumberland Farms takes its responsibilities as a valued member of the Hudson Falls community very seriously. We are pleased that with our support of first responders serving both the village of Hudson Falls and village of Fort Edward, the matter is now concluded.”

The plea agreement does not prevent the DEC from taking further civil action. Cumberland Farms had already paid $800,000 or more in restitution to Fort Edward and the Washington County Sewer District. And the motorist who set off the whole chain reaction? While police found the vehicle suspected to be involved in the incident, they were not able to connect it to a particular driver.