Leaks and spills of fuel oil, gasoline and other petroleum products contaminate New York's environment in many ways. Oil spills pollute groundwater, on which many New Yorkers depend for drinking water. Spills seep into streams, lakes, and reservoirs, which are drinking water sources as well as habitat where fish, birds, and other wildlife can be harmed or killed. Vapors from spills enter indoor environments where people live and work. Gasoline often contains toxic additives which, along with the gasoline itself, are difficult to clean up and cause environmental problems.

Some oil spills come from large petroleum refineries, tank farms, tankers, or pipelines. But many more oil spills are the result of leaks from underground gasoline storage tanks at gas stations, from residential fuel oil storage tanks, or from spills during fuel oil delivery. Very often a small spill or a leak in a relatively small tank can cause extensive contamination and can cost many thousands of dollars or more to clean up.

It may come as a surprise that a "small" tank with a "slight leak" can cause such expensive environmental problems. Yet it can, and it is critical for the health of all New Yorkers, as well as for the protection of wildlife and the environment, that all these spills are cleaned up promptly and properly. Many homeowners and small business owners are not aware that they can be legally responsible to pay for the cleanup even if apparently faultless. Yet they are, and it is important that everyone who might be liable take steps to avoid leaks, even "small" ones.

The New York State Attorney General's Office provides this report to help New Yorkers understand what they should do if they are involved in, and/or are affected by oil spills. We hope that this report will help everyone understand the importance of preventing spills and leaks and cleaning up all oil spills promptly to reduce exposure to petroleum contamination.

to the Department of Environmental Conservation Oil Spill Hotline