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Underground Storage Tank Enforcement Results Released

Release Date: 7/18/1997
Contact Information: Todd Bender
(206) 553-0344 or 1-800-424-4372

July 18, 1997 - - - - - - - - - - 97-47


The U.S. EPA today announced the results of a nationwide state-EPA enforcement initiative aimed at identifying and correcting violations of state and EPA regulations requiring the use of approved leak detection methods at underground storage tank (UST) facilities.

There are about one million federally regulated USTs in use in the United States.  Over the past nine years, more than 320,000 UST releases have been confirmed.  EPA estimates that about 60 percent of these releases have affected groundwater, the source of drinking water for half of all Americans.  States have reported that USTs are the most common source of groundwater contamination and that petroleum is the most common contaminant.

During May 1997, states and EPA inspected 10,050 facilities, including gasoline stations and truck and bus fleet refueling facilities.  States inspected 9,311 facilities, and EPA inspected 739.  A total of 3,192 facilities were found in violation of release detection requirements.  In the Northwest, the State of Washington inspected 120 facilities.  The States of Alaska and Oregon worked jointly with EPA to inspect 16 and 98 facilities, respectively.  In Idaho, the EPA inspected  54 UST facilities.  Most of the facilities inspected are privately owned, but some are owned by federal, state, or local government agencies.  In most cases, the owners were not immediately penalized but are expected to take action to install or perform release detection and keep records in accordance with state and federal requirements.  In approximately 400 cases, however, states and EPA proposed or collected fines ranging from $50 to $300,000.  The largest fines were assessed where owners had a history of noncompliance or where violations posed significant threats to health and the environment.  The national total of fines proposed or collected by states and EPA was slightly more than $1 million.

During the May inspections inspectors also reminded owners and operators of USTs installed before December 1988 that they have less than two years remaining in which to comply with requirements for spill, overfill, and corrosion protection.  These requirements, designed to prevent future leaks, will take effect in December 1998, except in a few states where they are already in effect.  (UST’s installed after December 1988 had to meet these requirement s when they were installed.)  Owners and operators of the older USTs will need to replace or upgrade their tanks to meet these requirements, or close them properly.  EPA recently announced that the Agency will not extend the December 1998 deadline.  The 1998 requirements are a key element in the ongoing state-EPA effort to prevent groundwater contamination.

Additional Contacts:
Ellen VanDuzee, Idaho Office (Boise) 208-378-5762
Jackie Posten, Alaska Office (Anchorage) 907-271-3541

State of Washington, Department of Ecology
Barry Rogowski, 360-407-7236

State of Oregon, Department of Environmental Quality
Stephanie Holmes, 503-229-6085