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Release Date: 02/23/1998
Contact Information: Leo Kay, EPA Press Office, (617) 918-4154 Matt Fritz, DEP Press Office, (860) 424-4100

BOSTON - The Environmental Protection Agency and the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection are reminding owners and operators of commercial underground storage tanks across the state that they now have less than a year left until the Dec. 22 deadline to upgrade, replace, or properly close their underground storage tanks.

Petroleum or hazardous substances from leaking underground storage tanks can contaminate groundwater, the source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans. States have reported that underground tanks are the most common source of groundwater contamination and that petroleum is the most common contaminant. Leaking underground tanks can present other health and environmental risks, including the potential for fire and explosion.

As of December 1997, the EPA and Connecticut DEP documented nearly 1,654 releases of petroleum products into the environment from underground storage tanks in Connecticut. Recently, MTBE, (a chemical found in oxygenated gasoline), from a leaking underground tank contaminated 12 wells in Haddam, Conn.

There are 16,923 underground storage tanks in Connecticut alone, an estimated 10 percent of which need to be upgraded. Over the last 12 years, owners and operators in the state have removed and closed 13,414 bare steel tanks that were not protected against corrosion and offered no leakage detection.

"Now is the time for getting ahead of the curve," said John P. DeVillars, administrator of the EPA's New England office. "For those who think 'out of sight, out of mind,' please think again. If you still have substandard tanks by this time next year, you could be facing substantial fines. So save yourself some aggravation and take care of your tanks now."

DeVillars and commissioners of the six New England states' environmental agencies recently adopted a joint resolution to eliminate high-risk, commercial underground storage tanks. The states and the EPA are planning to work together in aggressively enforcing state and federal requirements for upgrading, replacing or removing bare steel, commercial underground storage tanks.

"It is time for owners and operators of underground storage tanks to step up and do their share to protect Connecticut's environment," said Arthur J. Rocque, Jr, DEP commissioner. "Only problems await those owners who do not take this deadline seriously. Most importantly, tank owners have a responsibility to comply and protect the environment by removing leaking, outdated tanks."

Underground storage tanks that are considered to be in compliance must have as a minimum: 1) Corrosion protection on the tank and piping, 2) a method of leak detection, 3) catchment basins to contain spills from delivery hoses and 4) overfill protection such as an automatic shutoff device.

Furthermore, in Connecticut, unprotected steel underground storage tanks that are upgraded to comply with the 1998 deadline requirements cannot be used beyond 20 years from the original date of installation. Consequently, owners and operators are urged to properly close unprotected tanks, sample the site at closure, perform cleanups as necessary and install new systems that comply with new installation standards (i.e., fiberglass-reinforced plastic or steel with manufacturer-applied anti-corrosive coating and cathodic protection).

Costs to bring a facility into compliance with the 1998 requirements vary widely, depending on the size and nature of a facility, local labor rates, and other factors. As we approach December 1998, these costs could be higher due to increased customer demands for upgrading, replacing, or closing tanks, and finding available contractors to do the work by the deadline may be difficult.

Most underground storage tanks subject to these requirements are used to store gasoline, diesel fuel, or other petroleum products at service stations and vehicle fleet refueling facilities. The tanks used to store certain hazardous substances -- usually at industrial facilities -- also are subject to the EPA requirements. Connecticut has reported 886 such tanks.

The EPA set the deadline 10 years ago to give tank owners plenty of time to comply with the environmental regulation. Under EPA regulations that took effect in December of 1988, tanks installed before that date and not protected against corrosion, spills, and overfills must be upgraded, replaced, or properly closed by Dec. 22, 1998. Other regulatory requirements, including those for release detection, financial responsibility, and reporting and cleanup of leaks will remain in effect.

"With what we know about environmental damage resulting from leaking underground tanks, and considering the extended grace period we provided a decade ago, there really is no excuse anymore for not having removed outdated -- almost antiquated -- potentially dangerous tanks," DeVillars said.

The EPA provides a free booklet on "Financing Underground Storage Tank Work: Federal and State Assistance Programs." To order the EPA booklets, call the EPA's Hotline at 1-800-424-9346.

For more specific information about underground storage tanks in Connecticut, contact G. Scott Deshefy in the UST Program at (860)424-3334.