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One Year Left to Upgrade Underground Storage Tanks

Release Date: 12/22/1997
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

Today in Dallas, Region 6 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a reminder that time is running out for owners and operators to upgrade underground storage tanks.

"These regulations, designed to protect the only source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans, have been in place for 10 years. With all the outreach and compliance assistance being provided by EPA and state environmental agencies, there simply is no excuse for anyone to be out of compliance by this time next year,"Acting Regional Administrator Jerry Clifford said.

In May, state and federal inspectors checked almost 1,000 of the more than 138,000 underground storage tanks being used in the five states that comprise Region 6. Only 40 percent of the retail facilities and about a third of the non-retail facilities inspected were in compliance with the environmental regulations which go into effect one year from today.

More than half of the Texas facilities with steel tanks have complied with corrosion protection standards, according to the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (TNRCC).

TNRCC Commissioner Ralph Marquez said, "Texas has a results-oriented approach to ensuring our water supply is protected. Our guidelines incorporate newer technologies, cost-effective cleanups and streamlined paperwork requirements."

Arkansas Department of Pollution Control and Ecology Director Randall Mathis said, "We estimate that less than half of the approximately 16,000 storage tanks in the state are in compliance with all aspects of the new standards. Our agency's Regulated Storage Tank Division continues to work with tank owners to encourage early compliance with the new standards, and we expect the percentage of those in compliance to increase considerably as we approach the national deadline."

Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality Secretary J. Dale Givens said, "May inspections of 99 of the estimated 20,000 registered underground storage tank facilities in the state found 38 percent of the retail facilities and 4 percent of the non-retail facilities in compliance. The department has been sending out brochures and flyers as well as advertising in the Louisiana Oil Marketer's association trade magazine and speaking on the subject at our annual conference each year. We feel that the vast majority of the registered facilities are aware of the 98 deadline and its requirements."

J. David Duran, Chief of the Underground Storage Tank Bureau in the New Mexico Environmental Department, said, "While some progress has been made toward compliance, I am very concerned about the large number which have not. Currently only 1851 tanks out of 7875, or 38 %, meet the requirements. All of the tank installers are busy and it may be difficult to find one to do the work, even if owners start now."

Oklahoma Corporation Commission Chairman Ed Apple said, "Oklahoma is a rural state, and we are especially concerned about the future of independently owned service stations and convenience stores that serve small communities. Waiting until the last-minute rush may make the upgrade work too costly for these owners. To date, approximately one-third of the almost 16,000 regulated underground storage tanks in the state have been upgraded. That means there is much more work to do than has been done, so it is imperative that other owners upgrade as soon as possible."

The national regulations apply to buried tanks such as those used for gas and other petroleum products at service stations and fleet refueling facilities and those used to store certain hazardous chemicals, normally at industrial sites. Most abandoned tanks, such as those left in place in former service stations, also are subject to the regulations.

Regulations requiring overfill/spill prevention devices, leak detection systems and corrosion protection were adopted December 22, 1988. The ten-year deadline for tanks installed before the regulations were adopted provided owners plenty of time to comply. Owners and operators who have not upgraded, replaced or properly closed tanks installed before Dec. 22, 1988, can expect stiff penalties when the deadline runs out next year."

EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner announced last May that she does not intend to extend the deadline. She said an extension would reduce the incentive to comply and would not be fair to those owners who have already upgraded or closed their tanks. Regulations do not provide for a grace period in which violations can be corrected without penalty.

The Agency has been encouraging owners to proceed with upgrading, removing or replacing their underground tanks to avoid anticipated contractor shortages and higher costs as the deadline nears. State environmental agencies and EPA will be stepping up inspections and enforcement activities to increase awareness of the requirements.

EPA has a free booklet, "Don't Wait Until 1998," that explains the requirements. Some states have established financial assistance programs that can provide grants or low-interest loans to help owners upgrade or replace their tanks. Information is available in another booklet titled, "Financing Underground Storage Tank Work: Federal and State Assistance Programs." To order these booklets, call the EPA Hotline at 1-800-424-9346.

For more specific information about underground storage tanks in your area, contact your state's underground storage tank program at the phone number below.

Arkansas - (501) 682-0988

Louisiana - (504) 765-0243

New Mexico - (505) 827-2835

Oklahoma - (405) 521-2307

Texas - (512) 239-2106

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