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Linden Airport Fined $25,000 by EPA for Tank Violations

Release Date: 03/10/2000
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(#00039) New York, N.Y. -- The city of Linden, Linden Municipal Airport Development and Linden Aviation Services Corporation have agreed to pay $25,000 in a settlement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of charges that two 20,000-gallon underground storage tanks (USTs) at Linden Airport were mismanaged.

An EPA inspection of Linden Airport in September 1998 and subsequent correspondence with the airport and the city of Linden revealed that two large tanks that had been used to store airplane fuel had not been properly tested for releases for a number of years. EPA also found that one of the tanks, which had been temporarily closed in 1996, was never properly closed down a process that involves testing the soil around the tank to ensure that no petroleum product has seeped out. These are violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), the law that governs tank management. The city of Linden, which owned the tanks, and the two corporations that operated the tanks were all responsible for ensuring that the tests and proper closure took place.

"All underground storage tanks whether they are owned by small businesses, large industries or municipalities pose a real threat to the environment when they are not managed properly," said Jeanne M. Fox, EPA Regional Administrator. "Leaks and spills from USTs are the number-one source of groundwater contamination in the nation, and since many New Jerseyans rely on groundwater as their drinking water, it is even more important that tanks be handled properly. We are pleased that the tanks at Linden airport have been removed, and expect that all city tanks will be managed properly in the future."

EPA filed a complaint against all three entities for the underground storage tanks violations in June 1999. In December 1999, after the city of Linden transferred ownership of the airport property to a company that plans to develop it into a mall, the city provided evidence to EPA that 14 USTs at the airport -- including the two large tanks in question had been removed, and said that site assessments of the soil around the tanks would be done by March 2000. The city also said that if any soil contamination was found, it would be cleaned up by the new owner of the property. In settling with EPA on the charges, the airport companies and the city of Linden agreed to pay the cash penalty, to provide EPA with copies of the site assessments and to follow all underground storage tank requirements in the future. The airport has been relocated to an adjacent property.

Underground storage tanks range in capacity from a few hundred to 50,000 or more gallons, and are used to store gasoline, heating oil and other fuels, waste oil and hazardous substances at gas stations, marinas, government facilities and large industrial sites. Over 30,000 leaks and spills from USTs are reported nationally every year. A spill of one gallon of gasoline can render one million gallons of water undrinkable. When leaks from USTs contaminate the soil around the tanks, unhealthy gasoline vapors may settle into the basements of private homes and apartment buildings. Since USTs are buried several feet underground, spills and releases into the soil and into the groundwater table are often invisible to people standing at ground level. To insure that releases are quickly detected, RCRA requires all owners and operators to provide a method of release detection for each UST that can identify releases from any portion of the tank and connected underground piping. RCRA also requires owners and operators to keep thorough records of release detection activities and of any work done on the tanks.