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Underground Tank Owners in New Jersey Have One Year Left to Meet Environmental Regs

Release Date: 12/22/1997
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(#97175) NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today reminded owners and operators of underground storage tanks that they have one year left until the December 22, 1998 deadline to upgrade, replace or properly close their tanks. EPA set the 1998 deadline 10 years ago to give tank owners plenty of time to comply with the environmental regulation.

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. Tanks used to store certain hazardous chemicals -- usually at industrial facilities -- are also subject to EPA requirements. Leaks from underground storage tanks are the most common source of groundwater contamination. Leaking underground tanks can present other health and environmental risks, including the potential for fire and explosion.

EPA Regional Administrator Jeanne M. Fox expressed concern that agency estimates show barely half of the facilities with underground storage tanks in New Jersey have complied, saying, What we are talking about is protecting peoples health and one of our most important natural resources. A leak of just a gallon of petroleum from just one tank can contaminate one million gallons of groundwater used for drinking water. Many areas of New Jersey rely exclusively on groundwater as a public drinking water source. Groundwater contamination takes years to fix and is very expensive, Ms. Fox explained.

Under EPA regulations that took effect December 22, 1988, tanks installed before that date and not protected against corrosion, spills and overfills must be upgraded, replaced or properly closed by December 22, 1998. Other regulatory requirements, including those for release detection, financial responsibility and reporting and cleanup of leaks, will remain in effect. Some states deadlines for compliance are earlier than EPAs deadlines.

EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner announced last May that she does not intend to extend the deadline. She noted that an extension would reduce the incentive to comply and would not be fair to those tank owners who have already followed the rules.

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. The cost to upgrade a three-tank facility starts at about $12,700. Replacing three tanks and piping would cost between $80,000 and $l00,000. Closing a tank, which includes draining, cleaning and either removing it or filling it with inert material, would cost $5,000 to $11,000. None of these estimates includes the cost of site assessment to determine whether soil or groundwater is contaminated or the cost of any cleanup that may be necessary.

Given the threat that sub-standard tanks pose to human health and the environment, EPA and the states will identify violations, ensure that they are corrected, and impose appropriate penalties.
EPAs regulations do not provide for a grace period in which violations can be corrected without any penalty; the ten year lead time has allowed owners and operators ample time to comply
EPA provides a free l6-page booklet called Dont Wait Until 1998" which clearly explains these regulatory requirements. Some states have established financial assistance programs that can provide grants or low-interest loans to help owners upgrade or replace their tanks. EPA also provides a booklet on Financing Underground Storage Tank Work: Federal and State Assistance Programs. To order the EPA booklets, call EPA's Hotline at 1-800-424-9346, or visit the Office of Underground Storage Tanks Web site at http://www.epa.gov/OUST/.

For more specific information about underground storage tanks in your area, contact the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protections underground storage tank program at (609) 292-8761.