EPA Fuel Tank Inspections Protect Groundwater Supply

Since October 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in coordination with Tribal governments throughout the Pacific Southwest, inspected 136 underground fuel tank sites in an effort to increase compliance and prevent petroleum releases to the environment.

In Arizona, 25 fuel tank owners operating in the Phoenix, Tucson, and Navajo lands were fined a total of $71,776 for violations of underground storage tank regulations.

"EPA enforces underground tank operation requirements for a reason. Leaks and spills are a threat to limited groundwater supplies, said Jeff Scott, the EPA's Waste Management Division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "A hole in a tank the size of a pinhead can release 400 gallons of fuel in a year's time, enough to foul millions of gallons of fresh water."

On Navajo lands, 12 field citations were issued and $12,200 was collected in fines. In Phoenix and Tucson, five field citations were issued and $4,500 was collected in fines. A close collaboration between EPA inspectors and the Colorado River Indian Tribes Environmental Protection Office yielded the largest penalty ever collected on tribal lands against the Lost Lake Resort near Poston. Lost Lake Resort was fined $55,076 for underground storage tank violations that caused groundwater and soil contamination on the Colorado River Indian Tribes reservation.

The most common problem found during inspections was the failure to properly maintain and operate leak prevention and detection equipment. Facilities also failed to provide current paperwork for annual testing of tanks and piping systems or proof of financial liability insurance. EPA will continue to work with state and tribal governments to increase awareness and compliance.

Compliance with leak prevention and leak detection requirements help ensure petroleum releases from underground storage tanks occur less frequently and that facilities are properly alerted when releases do occur. To prevent releases, federal law required all regulated underground storage tanks to have spill and overfill equipment and corrosion protection in place by Dec. 22, 1998. Releases that are detected quickly can be cleaned up at far less expense than releases that go undetected for long periods of time.

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