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EPA Awards $785,000 to Navajo Nation for Leaking Underground Storage Tank Cleanup, Compliance

Release Date: 10/29/2014
Contact Information: Margot Perez-Sullivan, (415) 947-4149,

SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded $465,000 to the Navajo Nation to oversee the cleanup of an estimated 58 leaking underground storage tanks that store petroleum or hazardous substances throughout the reservation. The agency is also providing $320,000 for compliance activities reservation-wide.

Over the next 5 years, the EPA anticipates awarding $3.8 million to the Navajo Nation for this important work. This is the first time the agency has committed to funding these programs upfront for a multi-year period.

“Since the program’s start in 2000, EPA has helped fund the cleanup of 86 abandoned sites contaminated by petroleum products, mostly gas stations,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “Our goals are to reduce the number of leaking tanks, and hold tank owners accountable for any pollution they do cause.”

The cleanup funds will allow the Navajo Nation EPA to oversee the assessment and cleanup at 58 leaking underground storage tank sites in Tuba City, Shiprock, Lupton, Chinle, and several old abandoned trading posts across the Navajo Nation. Underground storage tank owners and operators are responsible for their tanks and need to maintain them in good condition, but in the event of leaks, must pay for their cleanup.

The compliance activities funds will be used to conduct tank inspections at approximately 100 Navajo facilities to ensure compliance with federal and tribal standards. These funds will also be used to provide training to operators to ensure there are no leaks from their tanks, and for staff to recognize and respond to release incidents.

Through the work of the underground storage tank program, the EPA and the Navajo Nation EPA have brought the compliance rate of underground tank operations to close to the national rate of 68 percent. EPA funding has also resulted in Navajo-specific regulations and petroleum cleanup standards which incorporate the Navajo philosophy of sacredness of the earth and all its resources. The Navajo Nation Underground Storage Tank Act was passed by the Navajo Nation Council on October 29, 1998. The Act requires the removal of all underground storage tanks that do not comply with the standards.

In 1986, Congress created the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund to address petroleum releases from federally regulated underground storage tanks. In 2005, the Energy Policy Act expanded eligible uses of the Trust Fund to include certain leak prevention activities. The Trust Fund provides money to: oversee cleanups; enforce cleanups by recalcitrant parties; pay for cleanups at sites where the owner or operator is unknown, or unable to respond, or which require emergency action; and conduct inspections and other release prevention activities. Left unattended, releases from underground tanks can contaminate soil, groundwater, surface water, and indoor air.

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