Phony Vents Put Blender in Hot Water


A Pennsylvania lubricants company officials alleged attempt to sidestep state regulations by installing fake vents on tanks has led to criminal charges against him and a Sept. 1 court hearing.

The Pennsylvania Attorney General June 29 charged Scot Lubricants President Timothy D. Fritz with directing employees to fabricate phony modifications to oil storage and blending tanks at its Allentown location to avoid complying with state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) venting regulations.

Fritz was arraigned before a Lehigh County Magisterial District judge on June 29 and released on $75,000 unsecured bail.

By press time, Fritz did not reply to Lube Reports e-mail or phone requests for comment. Calls to Scot Lubricants phone number were answered by an automated message indicating the number was temporarily unavailable.

The purpose of the Sept. 1 preliminary hearing is not to determine guilt or innocence, but whether or not the Commonwealth as prosecutor has presented probable cause that a crime has been committed and that the case should be bound over for court, Pennsylvania Attorney Generals Office spokesman Nils Frederickson told Lube Report. At that point, the judge will determine whether or not the case should be held for trial. If it is, then well move on and it would likely be something that would go to court in Lehigh County in the fall this year.

According to the police criminal complaint, a DEP water quality supervisor in July 2007 requested documentation from Scot Lubricants to verify that venting on its storage tanks met industry standards. Scot Lubricants hired a certified tank inspector to evaluate the tanks who concluded that the tanks at its Allentown site lacked proper vents.

In October 2007, the DEP issued a notice of violation to Scot Lubricants directing it to bring the tanks into compliance and provide proof by Nov. 30, 2007. In January 2008, Fritz provided DEP with photographs of purported venting modifications to its storage tanks to prove compliance. According to the DEP, Fritz signed a consent assessment document later in 2008 indicating the tank venting violations were corrected.

In August 2010, a former Scot Lubricants employee contacted a DEP official to advise him that some vents installed on the companys storage tanks were dummies. During 2011s first quarter, an agent with the Pennsylvania Attorney Generals environmental crimes section interviewed several company employees.

Two admitted to being directed to construct the false vents, referred to as man ways, on several tanks at the companys East Tremont Street. One said the false man ways, described as metal plates with four pipe elbows that resemble vents, were photographed to make it appear as though proper vents were installed. One former employee alleged that Fritz observed the work on the tanks over the course of the month it took to complete the retrofitting project.

After being informed by a DEP official that an April 19, 2011 site inspection found non-operational vents on several tanks, the Attorney Generals Office executed a search warrant April 26 at Scot Lubricants facility. The offices agents observed several false man ways that consisted of three inch pipe elbows and large bolts welded to a square metal plate measuring approximately 18 to 24 inches wide, with the whole apparatus wedged between the top of the tank and the ceiling to hold it in place.

Another former Scot Lubricants employee interviewed in May 2011 told an Attorney Generals Office agent that the tank retrofitting project, along with the photographs of it, were a running joke.

Scot Lubricants manufactures and blends motor and gear oils, automatic transmission fluids, hydraulic fluids and other lubricants. The company manufactures its own products along with products for a number of other customers. Its main product line is branded Macmillan Ring-free.

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