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January 16, 2004

Ventnor gas station-owner wins cleanup case

By JOHN BRAND
Staff Writer, (609) 272-7275

VENTNOR - Robert Goldstein bought the old Tabasso's gas station seven years ago hoping to redevelop the property or even open another service station.

Instead, he has spent more than $100,000 cleaning oil spills caused by corroded underground storage tanks, said his attorney, Stuart Lieberman.

But Goldstein got some relief Thursday when a Superior Court judge ruled that Gulf/Chevron, which was two separate entities that have since merged, must help with the cleanup, even though it has not owned the property since 1983.

The court will hold a management conference Jan. 30 at 11 a.m. to determine what portion Gulf/Chevron will have to cover.

"We are gratified that the court has decided that Chevron has some responsibility for the clean up of the contamination of this property. This is an old station that has been operated for at least five decades, and it is clear that the oil company should pay its share," Lieberman said.

The Gulf Oil Corporation operated the station at 6400 Ventnor Avenue for many years and leased it to Frank and Phyllis Tabasso from 1950 to 1983.

The Tabassos owned it from 1983 until the early 1990s.

Goldstein, operating under the name 6400 Corporation, bought the property through a sheriff's sale in 1996. It had been vacant for a few years.

Following a 1997 oil spill, Goldstein had to remove several underground storage tanks, including two 4,000-gallon and three 2,000-gallon gasoline tanks.

Contractors also removed 200 cubic yards of contaminated soil.

Evidence presented during the three-day bench trial in November showed leaded gasoline was found in the soil.

The chemicals present in the leaded gasoline were only available before 1983, the plaintiffs said.

The judge found that Gulf/Chevron contributed to the contamination through "a series of small spills of gasoline over the many years the service station was operated.

"This would include spills from overflow when cars were filled, spills when tanks were filled and spills from leaking in joints of pipes carrying gas."

Copyright 2004 The Atlantic City Press