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EPA Fines Puerto Rico Air National Guard for Improperly Managing Underground Petroleum Storage Tanks

Release Date: 12/09/2009
Contact Information: Elizabeth Myer (212) 637-3860, myer.elizabeth@epa.gov, or Brenda Reyes (787) 977-5869, reyes.brenda@epa.gov

(New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a complaint to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, part of the U.S. Air Force, for improperly managing underground tanks used to store diesel fuel and gasoline at its facility in Toa Baja. Leaking underground storage tanks pose significant threats to soil, surface water and ground water. EPA cited the Puerto Rico Air National Guard for failing to properly monitor its storage tanks for leaks and maintain records of release detection for two underground storage tank systems; the Agency is seeking a civil penalty of $154,353.

“Out of sight does not mean out of mind when it comes to underground storage tanks, which is why it is critical that facilities monitor their tanks and make sure they are not leaking,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “Given the close proximity of the Air National Guard facility to the coastline, leaks from its underground petroleum storage systems could have caused a serious environmental problem.”

The Puerto Rico Air National Guard‘s Toa Baja facility is about 10 miles west of San Juan and is located near the popular Punta Salinas Park. The two underground storage tank systems at the facility are subject to the requirements laid out under Puerto Rico’s underground storage tank program. The tanks have been emptied as the facility no longer requires a fueling station.

EPA’s complaint also cites the Puerto Rico Air National Guard for failing to give the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB) required information about these underground storage tank systems. EQB is responsible for implementing and enforcing the requirements of the Puerto Rico Public Policy Act of 1970, which set forth requirements for owners and operators of underground storage tank systems.

Petroleum releases from underground storage tanks can contaminate water, making it unsafe or unpleasant to drink, pose fire and explosion hazards, and can have short and long-term effects on people’s health. About 625,000 underground storage tank systems exist nationwide, and more than 375,000 leaking tanks have been cleaned up over the last decade.

For a Google Earth aerial view of this site, visit http://www.epa.gov/region2/kml/punta_salinas_radar_site.kml. (Please note that you must have Google Earth installed on your computer to view the map. To download Google Earth, visit http://earth.google.com/download-earth.html).

For more information on underground storage tanks, visit http://www.epa.gov/oust/. For more information about EPA’s work in Puerto Rico, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/cepd/prlink.htm.

Follow EPA Region 2 on Twitter at http://twitter.com/eparegion2 and visit our Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/eparegion2.

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