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BIA agrees to fine and cleanup for underground storage tank violations

Release Date: 12/26/2000
Contact Information:
1 800 227 8917 x 6788,

Release Date: 12/26/2000
Contact Information:
1 800 227 8917 x6921,

Release Date: 12/26/2000
Contact Information:
1 800 227 8917 x7814

      Denver -- The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) will pay a $93,383 cash penalty and do three

      supplemental environmental projects valued at a minimum of $424,410 in response to EPA legal

      action for underground storage tank (UST) violations. The agreement states that funds for

      compliance must come from BIA itself and must not impact the budget of any tribe or tribal

      program.

      The supplemental environmental projects include establishing and implementing a multi-media environmental cleanup program at the
      Marty Indian School and removing three underground storage tanks at the school's tribally-owned store in Marty, South Dakota. These projects will improve environmental protection from UST leaks and enhance the quality of life in Indian country in that area.
Following EPA's enforcement action, a large-scale UST removial effort, BIA met the 1998 UST upgrade deadline and continues to perform site assessments and cleanup -- where necessary -- at the removal sites. Only eight tanks at four facilities subject to this action remain in the ground, and one is under contract to be removed. The parties agreed that BIA's obligations under the consent agreement, including penalty payment, are subject to the availability of funds to ensure tribes or tribal programs are not negatively impacted by the settlement.

Once gasoline or chemicals get into groundwater, it is extremely expensive, sometimes impossible, to clean up the contamination. "It makes more sense to keep contamination out of our water supplies in the first place," said EPA tank specialist Teri Bahrych in Denver, "and that begins with leak detection."

"Leak detection is the critical first step in protecting underground water supplies used for drinking, livestock and irrigation." Bahrych said, noting that in 1995, a city well on Pine Ridge had to be closed when contaminated by fuel from a nearby leaking tank. "Often, when wells are closed, new ones must be drilled at substantial expense to small communities. With good leak detection, we can head off such potential health problems and save that expense."

Tank owners and operators have been required to perform leak detection since 1988. A 1998 deadline required tanks be upgraded with overfill, spill and corrosion protection or closed following strict requirements.