Navajo Nation to Inspect Underground Storage Tanks

Late in March, Navajo Nation EPA underground storage tank inspectors begin inspecting storage tanks on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, kicking off a two-year pilot program between the U.S. EPA and the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency.

According to a March 24 press release, the U.S. EPA issued inspector credentials to two NN EPA inspectors, giving them the ability to inspect tanks on behalf of the federal agency. The inspectors will have the ability to write field citations for federal violations. Similar to traffic tickets, these citations are used to quickly bring facilities into compliance with federal tank regulations. The citations typically range from $500 up to $3,000.

"We have been working in partnership with the Navajo Nation EPA for over 15 years to ensure underground storage tanks are managed properly," said Jeff Scott, the EPA's director of the Waste Management Division for the Pacific Southwest Region. "This program provides additional tools in the Navajo Nation and will increase field presence, which will likely lead to improved compliance and reduced releases of gasoline. This pilot program may also serve as a model for tribes nationwide."

Leak prevention is critical because unseen leaks caused by corrosion, overfills, or other spills can pollute precious limited groundwater supplies. A hole 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. The inspectors will be examining equipment and reviewing maintenance records to ensure equipment is working properly.

To prevent releases, federal law requires all regulated underground storage tanks to have spill and overfill equipment and corrosion protection. Releases that are detected quickly can be cleaned up at far less expense to the environment and responsible parties than releases that go undetected for long periods of time.

The Navajo Nation stretches over three states and is roughly the size of West Virginia. On these 27,000 square miles, there are more than 200 underground storage tank facilities.