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Twenty Years of Protecting America’s Soil and Groundwater

Release Date: 11/12/2004
Contact Information:

Contact: David Deegan 202-564-7839 /

(11/12/2004) Until twenty years ago, hundreds of thousands of unregulated underground storage tanks were leaking petroleum and contaminating our nation’s soil and groundwater. Today, our environment is better protected because of the collaborative efforts of federal and state governments, tribes and industry to ensure that underground storage tanks don’t leak. This month, EPA commemorates the 20th anniversary of legislation signed by President Reagan to create a program to ensure that leaks from underground tanks are prevented, and if contamination of soil and groundwater is detected, releases are cleaned up. Since 1984, more than 1.5 million substandard tanks have been closed. Because of the effective collaboration of government and communities, more than 300,000 releases have been cleaned up. Today, the approximately 700,000 active tanks have been upgraded or replaced, in accordance with the federal regulations for release prevention and leak detection. Further, the number of new leaks discovered each year has dropped from a high of more than 66,000 in 1990 to roughly 12,000 in 2003. On Nov. 8, 1984, President Reagan signed legislation directing EPA to protect the public from petroleum leaks from underground tanks at gas stations and other places. Two years later, Congress created the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund to provide a funding source for cleaning up these petroleum leaks. EPA set tough standards covering new tanks and requiring owners and operators of substandard tanks to upgrade or close them. Even with these significant accomplishments, EPA continues to work to address this source of pollution. Many contaminated sites await completion of cleanups, and more than 200,000 petroleum Brownfield sites await cleanup and reuse. More information on EPA’s ongoing work to prevent, detect and clean up releases from leaking underground storage tanks and to protect our nation’ soil and groundwater is available at: .