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Release Date: 8/8/1997
Contact Information: Dave Schmidt, U.S. EPA (415) 744-1578, Mary K. Stevens, San Carlos Apache Tribal EPA, (520) 475-2218

     (San Francisco) -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and the San Carlos Apache Tribal EPA today announced they have inspected nine underground fuel tank facilities on San Carlos Apache Indian lands in Arizona 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 Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), three owned by the San Carlos Apache Tribe, and one privately owned.  The BIA facilities were the BIA San Carlos Police Department and Forestry Department fuel tanks, the Coolidge Dam Maintenance Yard, and disused tanks at the San Carlos Airstrip and the former BIA fire station. The tribe-owned facilities were the Peridot Texaco, the San Carlos Lake Development Store, and Haralson's Bylas Texaco.  Bill Connor Auto Service was also inspected.
     The U.S. EPA and San Carlos Apache EPA 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 16 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 San Carlos Apache EPA will return for future inspections, and work together to ensure compliance with UST regulations.  During the months of August and October of this year, U.S. EPA will again visit tribal lands to conduct  informational workshops about UST leak detection and  the 1998 upgrade requirements.