Pennsylvania authorities have charged a New Jersey truck driver over a large-scale fuel spill that took place near an elementary school last month, triggering what prosecutors called an “environmental catastrophe.”
Fuel delivery truck driver George Smith, 36, has been charged with eight felony counts and two misdemeanors including causing and risking a catastrophe and Clean Streams Law violations, according to the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.
The charges come in the wake of a June 12 fuel spill in Delaware County, Pennsylvania that forced the evacuation of Coebourn Elementary School in Brookhaven and killed off wildlife.
“We have determined that the defendant’s deliberate actions caused this fuel discharge. Motivated by a desire to speed up his route, the defendant poured in excess of 4000 gallons of gasoline over an embankment bordering an elementary school – causing damage to a nearby stream, wildlife and vegetation and resulting in the closure of the school. As a fuel delivery driver, the defendant was entrusted with a hazardous product – gasoline – and he owed a duty of care to all of us. He chose self-interest over the safety of the Brookhaven community and the safety of the children at Coebourn Elementary School,” Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer said.
Investigators say that Smith filled up with 8500 gallons of gas to begin his daily deliveries.
Smith reportedly deviated from his route and went first to a Gas N Go location that was meant to be his last stop. Because another tanker truck driver had already delivered to that location earlier in the day, Smith was only able to fill up the gas station’s tanks with 4500 gallons of gas.
Investigators say that Smith would have had to make a partial fill up at his next stop and then return to the fuel depot, adding time to his day’s deliveries.
Surveillance video captured Smith at the Gas N Go location dumping the remaining 4000 gallons of gas down an embankment.
“During the fuel delivery stop, the defendant placed the fuel hose on the ground next to the guard rail. As evidenced by dead vegetation, the defendant’s hose placement in the surveillance video corresponds with the flow path of gas leading down the embankment from the gas station and into a small, wooded area between the gas station and adjacent elementary school,” the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office said.
Dead wildlife including a fox, fish, and eels, have been reported in the wake of the fuel spill. More than 100 truck’s worth of contaminated soil have been removed from the area.
Smith has been released on a $50,000 bond.
You can view the DA’s press conference announcing the charges below.