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Release Date: 10/29/1997
Contact Information: Dave Schmidt, U.S. EPA (415) 744-1578, Norma Cady, Navajo Nation EPA, (520) 871-7691

     (San Francisco) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the Navajo Nation EPA today announced they have inspected 19 underground fuel tank facilities on the Navajo Nation and alerted owners and operators to regulations requiring them to take immediate action to prevent leaks that could endanger groundwater.  The inspectors also put tank owners and operators on notice that they must also upgrade older tanks to meet U.S. EPA safety standards by  December 22, 1998.

     "Compliance with underground storage tank regulations is crucial to preventing groundwater and soil contamination from leaking underground tanks," said Julie Anderson, U.S. EPA's waste management division director. "Fuel tank owners and operators who violate these regulations put water supplies at risk and often create costly cleanup problems to deal with in the future.  If they fail to comply, tank owners will not only have to pay monetary penalties, but also pay for any necessary soil testing and cleanup of contaminated soil or groundwater."

     The facilities inspected included five owned or operated by the Navajo Nation, one owned by the federal government's Indian Health Service, and 13 owned by private gas station operators.  The Navajo Nation facilities were the Chinle Unified School District, the Montezuma Creek Elementary School Bus Barn, the Mexican Hat Elementary School, the Kayenta Chevron, and Navajo Fleet Management in Chinle. The Indian Health Service location was the Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility.  The private gas stations inspected were the following: Baldwin's Mini Mart and 76 Station, Chinle; Thriftway #301, Shiprock; Thriftway/Giant Industries #269, Montezuma Creek; Giant #105, Kayenta; Giant #107, Many Farms; Thriftway/Giant Industries #07-249, Aneth; Auto Service Center, Chinle; 7-2-11 Food Store, Kayenta; El Capitan Texaco, Kayenta; Frank's Fina, Teec Nos Pos; Beclahbeto Trading Post, Beclahbeto; Oljato Trading Post, Monument Valley; and Teec Nos Pos Trading Post, Teec Nos Pos.
     The U.S. EPA and Navajo Nation EPA inspectors instructed owners and operators to comply with the regulations by regularly conducting leak detection tests, monitoring inventory of fuel in each tank, properly closing tanks that are no longer used, and taking other required leak prevention measures.  The inspectors also explained that all underground fuel tanks installed before 1988 must be upgraded to meet U.S. EPA standards for corrosion, spill, and overfill protection by December 22, 1998 -- only 14 months away.  The inspectors found that the tank owners were very receptive to learning about underground storage tank (UST) requirements.

     U.S. EPA's inspection program is designed to quickly bring UST facilities into compliance with federal UST rules. Owners and operators who do not comply are subject to citations with penalties ranging from $50 to $300 per violation.  If the violations continue, much stiffer penalties can be imposed:  up to $11,000 per day per violation.  U.S. EPA and the Navajo Nation EPA will return for future inspections, and work together to ensure compliance with UST regulations.

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