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EPA, DEQ To Check Gas Station Tanks In Portland Area

Release Date: 9/14/1998
Contact Information: Bob Jacobson
(206) 553-1203

September 14, 1998 - - - - - - - - 98-49


Teams of federal inspectors this week (September 14-18) will visit more than three dozen gasoline service stations and other fueling operations in the Portland area and the Willamette Valley to see if they are doing all they're supposed to do to keep their underground storage tanks from leaking contaminants into local drinking water supplies.
The inspections were announced today at a Portland news briefing conducted by Mike Kortenhof of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, manager of the Oregon underground storage tank program, and by Jacqueline Poston of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, leader of the four inspection crews.  

"Our paramount concern is that ground water be protected," declared Poston.  "Small leaks can cause big problems.

"A hole the size of a pin, if left unrepaired for a year, will release more than 400 gallons into the environment."

Poston said the EPA inspectors will determine if owners and operators of underground storage tanks have put in place measures required for detecting leaks.  Also, owners and operators will be asked to show they are able to bear the financial responsibility for cleaning up damage caused by any leaks or other releases of tank contents to the environment.

Inspectors will also check for compliance with a year-end EPA deadline which  --  if not met  --  may cause gas stations to take their tanks out of service, according to DEQ's Kortenhof.

"Federal and state laws require owners and operators of underground storage tanks to either upgrade or replace older tanks to protect against corrosion, spills and overfills," Kortenhof explained.  "If the December 22 deadline is not met, Oregon law will not allow the tanks to be refilled.

"There are currently 3,200 facilities with underground storage tanks in Oregon, compared to 9,000 only 10 years ago. After December 22, there may be fewer still."

Kortenhof estimates that, of the 1,600 service stations with underground storage tanks in Oregon, about 1.100 have already upgraded or replaced their tanks and 200-300 may close.

"Missing the deadline means penalties that could range up to $11,000 per tank for each day a tank is not in compliance with the EPA regulations,"  Poston warned.  "If everyone waits until the last minute, there's a good chance there won't be enough contractors to go around, with the possible result that tank owners and operators will choose to avoid penalties by taking their tanks out of service."