Truck company disputes DEP fine for spill on hairpin turn

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The owner of a Texas trucking company blamed for spilling fuel at the infamous Route 2 hairpin turn is fighting a $26,600 state fine, saying he's not responsible for the driver's mishap.

The Department of Environmental Protection issued the penalty against E.P. Expedited Transport of Laredo, Texas, in November after finding it responsible for a spill that released about 25 gallons of diesel fuel.

A tractor-trailer rig crashed into a guardrail at the turn on Jan. 13, 2016. The impact ruptured one of the tractor's tanks. Fuel flowed out onto snow and ice at the scene and into nearby soil, according to the DEP.

Though the Texas company paid for initial cleanup costs, more environmental repairs are needed, the DEP maintains, and the company has failed to submit required forms.

But Edward Perez, the company's owner, said in a Tuesday interview with The Eagle from Laredo that his small, 4-year-old firm is being put through the wringer unfairly. He wishes he'd never paid a dime.

"Once they cashed the check they gave us the runaround again and again and again," Perez said.

Perez claims the driver who crashed had once worked as an independent contractor for his firm but did not have his permission to use the trailer on the trip that ended with the crash at the hairpin curve. What's more, the driver was operating his own tractor, not one owned by E.P. Expedited Transport.

Both the tractor and the trailer had to be towed from the scene at a cost of $15,000.

Perez said his company had no role in booking the three loads of freight the independent driver was hauling.

When Perez sent a driver up from Texas to retrieve the trailer, the company found that it contained three separate freight shipments, which, like the trailer itself, had not been damaged in the crash.

Perez said his company consulted a lawyer and was told it was obligated to deliver that freight.

"I'm out nearly $40,000 on this," he said. "By picking up the trailer, we got in a mess."

When it imposed the $26,600 fine on Nov. 16, the DEP said that Perez's company had participated in a teleconference about the incident, but later did not supply documentation the agency requires.

Details of the case were confirmed by Catherine Skiba of the DEP's Springfield office.

Perez said he provided a copy of the registration for the tractor, which he said showed that it belonged to the independent driver. He said the tractor's plates were not registered to his company and identified the owner of the tractor as Delta Eady, president of Day & Night Express LLC, based in Atlanta, Georgia.

"They can't get hold of that guy, so they're just coming after us," Perez said.

A business phone listing for Day & Night Express in Atlanta was out of service Tuesday. A federal Department of Transportation listing for Eady's company provided a phone number, but that number was also not in service when The Eagle called it Tuesday.

According to a federal DOT trucking safety website, Day & Night Express is listed as "not authorized," meaning the carrier is not cleared for operations.

The Eagle found an email address for Eady on the DOT site and attempted to contact him to confirm that he was the driver in the Jan. 13 crash. No response was received.

Perez said Eady had driven for his company once, but was no longer an employee.

The DEP says that more work is needed to remove diesel contamination in soil from the area of the spill.

Perez said he regrets his initial payment for cleanup costs and believes it tied him to the incident — and costs to his company are mounting.

"That was a mistake on our part having made that initial payment," he said. "They also want payment for damage to the guardrail."

Reach staff writer Larry Parnass at 413-496-6214 or @larryparnass.


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