Sat | Aug 19, 2017

Fuelling fears - Illegal gas station operating metres from commercial, residential premises near New Kingston

Published:Sunday | June 4, 2017 | 6:00 AMRyon Jones
A motorist buying gas at an illegal gas station on Beechwood Avenue.
An old Texaco pump used to dispense gas at an illegal gas station in the Corporate Area.
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With memories of the October 2016 explosion at an illegal gas plant on Jacques Road in east Kingston that left three people dead still fresh in minds, there are fears concerning the sale of gasolene at an unauthorised property on Beechwood Avenue in the Corporate Area.

Haulage contractor Gladstone Hastings last week confirmed that he is selling gasolene at the premises without the required permits, but argued that he plans to get them soon.

Hastings showed our news team a trade and business licence, but this was for another business he operates at premises adjacent to the unauthorised petrol station.

He admitted to having not yet completed the steps, such as getting approvals from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), the National Works Agency, the municipal council, the Town and Country Planning Authority, and the fire department to operate the petrol station.

"When we got the trade licence, we should have gone to look about the other things, but we put off things and I wasn't here as I was overseas looking about the equipment," said Hastings.

"We intend to build a station across the road shortly. We are actually in the process of getting material from overseas, so it is not an intended illegal operation. It is an operation that will be regularised in a couple of months from now.

"Haulage has gone down to nothing now, so I said might as well I venture out of it and creep into the retail business, but now that I have realised how serious it is I am going to have to move on it and shut down whatever I was doing here," added Hastings.

According to Hastings, he has stopped selling diesel fuel and now only uses it to supply his haulage tankers but decided to sell 90 octane gasolene to build a customer base, with the plan being to have a legitimate petrol station operating in the coming months.

"We buy like 500 litres of 90 (octane) once every two weeks and we make like $25,000 off it. That is no profit as the tank doesn't hold 1,000 gallons, so it is not a large storage," said Hastings.

"And not any and anybody can't just drive in and we sell to them. I tell them don't sell to people who they don't know."

Hastings, who has C.B. Machine Service Company Limited head office and Native Food Packers Limited for neighbours, said he has taken steps to ensure the safety of the operation.

"I just purchased a valve overseas, which is a safety protection valve for fumes and pressurisation. So that is one of the safety measures; you can't get any fumes out of it (petrol storage tank) now," argued Hastings.

Last week, Hastings was offering 90 octane gasolene at $129 per litre. This was 80 cents cheaper than the closest competitor in the area.

But motorists who go for this cheaper gas are putting themselves at risk as the facility contravene some of NEPA's basic criteria for the operation of petrol stations.

These include the provision that petrol stations are to be equipped with firefighting and fire protection equipment installed in accordance with the requirements of the fire department, and that all storage tanks shall be installed below ground.

The Beechwood Avenue premises has one entrance, which also serves as the exit, and that is also in breach of the NEPA rules.

The Sunday Gleaner team also saw a 90 octane tank above ground level without any perimeter structures and with a fuel dispenser attached, while a diesel tank has a concrete perimeter wall but it is also above the ground with a dispenser attached. These are also in breach of the NEPA rules.

Efforts to get a comment from NEPA have so far been unsuccessful.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com