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Veterans Affairs Department, Cited for Petroleum Storage Tank Violations in Puerto Rico; Will Fund Public Training Sessions on Environmental Requirements

Release Date: 03/25/2010
Contact Information: John Senn (212) 637-3667, senn.john@epa.gov; Brenda Reyes (787) 977-5869, reyes.brenda@epa.gov

(San Juan, P.R.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will pay a $13,000 fine and hold training sessions on storage tank regulations to settle a complaint issued by EPA over a failure to monitor, inspect and maintain records for underground petroleum and diesel storage tank systems at a San Juan, P.R. facility. Petroleum underground storage tanks pose significant threats to soil, surface water and ground water across the nation if they leak.

“The storage of petroleum, if not done properly, has the potential to contaminate groundwater and compromise human health. It is critical that facilities monitor their tanks and make sure they are not leaking,” said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. “The Department of Veterans Affairs acted quickly to bring the underground storage tank systems at its San Juan facility into compliance, and the training sessions it will hold as a result of this settlement should prevent similar cases in the future.”

A 2008 EPA inspection and Department of Veterans Affairs records showed that the Department failed to have two of its systems inspected as required, and did not maintain sufficient testing results and compliance records for three underground petroleum and diesel storage tank systems at its facility in San Juan. The Department has taken steps to correct these issues and EPA believes the facility’s underground storage tank systems comply with federal and Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board regulations.

In addition to paying a $13,000 fine, the Department of Veterans Affairs will hold four training sessions, which will be open to the public, to inform other owners and operators of underground storage tank systems in Puerto Rico about system management regulations. The training sessions will cost the Department about $111,000 and are considered a supplemental environmental project. A supplemental environmental project is an environmentally-beneficial project that a violator voluntarily agrees to undertake in settlement; it must be a project that a violator will not otherwise be required to perform.

The training sessions are tentatively scheduled for August 2010 in San Juan, Ponce, Aguadilla and Fajardo. For more information on the sessions, contact Ms. Luz Muriel-Diaz of the Veterans Affairs department at Luz.Muriel-Diaz@va.gov.

The Veterans Affairs facility in San Juan maintains five underground storage tank systems; one stores gasoline for vehicles and four store diesel to power emergency boilers and generators. Three of the five systems did not comply with underground storage tank regulations.

Petroleum and diesel releases from underground storage tanks can contaminate water, making it unsafe to drink, pose fire and explosion hazards, and can have short- and long-term effects on people’s health. More than 600,000 underground storage tank systems exist nationwide, and more than 375,000 leaking tanks have been cleaned up over the last decade.

For more information on underground storage tanks in Puerto Rico, visit http://www.epa.gov/region02/ust/.

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