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Agencies plan to remove oil tanks on Marianas Islands

Release Date: 04/13/2006
Contact Information: Dean Higuchi, 808-541-2711, higuchi.dean@epa.gov

(04/13/06) HONOLULU - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianna Islands Division of Environmental Quality will remove a number of old military above-ground oil storage tanks and associated contamination from Tanapag Village, CNMI beginning next week.

“This joint effort will benefit the Tanapag community by removing potential health hazards and will also train DEQ staff in planning, assessment, sampling, health and safety monitoring, cleanup and project management,” said Michelle Rogow, the EPA Pacific Southwest Region’s on-scene coordinator for the project. “This project highlights the cooperative efforts of EPA and DEQ to improve the Saipan environment.”

The agencies have identified six tanks as a high priority for removal, based on oil remaining in the tanks and proximity to residences. On April 17, work will begin on Tank 10 near the Martin residence and will last approximately two weeks. The EPA and DEQ plan to remove the tanks that present the most immediate health threat, where practicable. The remaining work will probably continue for at least four weeks.

Work areas will be surrounded by orange fencing and “Keep Out” signs to discourage children from getting near heavy equipment and work areas. Crews will remove solid waste and vegetation, oil and oily water, and clean up contaminated materials and remove scrap tank metal. Contaminated soils will be excavated and oil and contaminated soil will be removed from the property and properly disposed. Finally, work crews will sample soil to ensure that cleanup meets residential standards.

The Tanapag Fuel Farm, built in the mid to late 1940s, was used by the U.S. Navy to provide fuel for ships and aircraft during World War II and through the 1950s, after which up to 42 tanks were abandoned. A 1998 Army Corps survey revealed 25 tanks still visible on the ground. Of those tanks, this removal is aimed at six that are considered high priority.

When the tanks were abandoned, some residual oil was left in a few of the tanks. As the tanks have corroded and collapsed due to age and weather, rainwater has entered the tanks, and oil and oily water has leaked into the ground. Deterioration of the tanks has made them unsafe. Other chemical hazards also include some metals, such as arsenic, cadmium and chromium. This project plans to address both the physical and chemical hazards associated with the tanks.

EPA and DEQ have met with the CNMI agencies, the community and individual residents to coordinate on the project and address any concerns. If you have questions or concerns regarding this project, please contact CNMI DEQ at (670) 664-850

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