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Release Date: 11/9/2000
Contact Information: Leo Kay, U.S. EPA Press Office, 415/744-2201

     City is one of 10 across country chosen for new program

     SAN FRANCISCO   As part of a new national initiative, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded the city of Oakland a $100,000 grant last week to assess abandoned sites where potential petroleum contamination from leaking underground storage tanks may have thwarted redevelopmemt.

     Oakland was one of only 10 cities across the country to receive funding under this new EPA initiative, which builds on the agency's "brownfields" program to incorporate petroleum contamination   including MTBE   into assessing potential sites for reuse.  Up until now, cities and municipalities have not been able to use brownfields funding on petroleum contamination, which has an exemption under the Superfund law.
   Oakland officials plan to use the funding to explore dozens of potential underground tank sites throughout the city as part of its Urban Land Redevelopment program.
     "Oakland now has yet another tool to help in its task to clean up inner city sites. This program not only protects public health and the environment, it also returns life and vitality to neighborhoods with abandoned, idle properties," said Felicia Marcus, regional administrator of the EPA's Pacific Southwest Office.

     "Once again, the EPA has shown great support for Oakland's innovative brownfields efforts to encourage private sector cleanup and redevelopment," said Brooke Levin of Oakland's Public Works Department.  "This grant money will showcase how Oakland is leading the way on returning old underground storage tank sites to productive use in the new urban economy."

     "We are excited that Oakland was chosen as one of the ten cities to participate in this new EPA initiative. This grant is a great step in the right direction to protect our groundwater from petroleum contamination, and to clean up sites in Oakland that have suffered from petroleum pollution," said Representative Barbara Lee.  "The USTfields program will provide much needed support in our commitment to protect the environment, the public health of our citizens, and improve the neighborhoods that are affected by the contamination of these sites."

     Of the estimated 450,000 brownfields sites in the United States, approximately 100,000 to 200,000 contain underground storage tanks or are impacted by petroleum leaks from them.  Leaking underground tanks are one of the primary causes of groundwater contamination in the United States.

     In 1998, a federal deadline went in effect mandating that all exisiting or new tanks meet strict safety and leak detection requirements.  While most faulty tanks have been upgraded since then, there are hundreds across the country that continue to contaminate soil and groundwater.

     Today's funding adds to the more than $1 million the U.S. EPA has given Oakland through its Urban Land Redevelopment program.  The EPA has awarded the city of Oakland $900,000 in funds and services since 1996 to return to productive use abandoned or underused brownfields, and has also given the city approximately $450,000 to address problems from leaking underground storage tanks.

     The EPA plans to select 40 more "USTfields" pilot projects in 2001.  Information about the USTfields Initiative is available at: and look under "What's New."