Blue Ribbon Panel On Oxygenates In Gasoline Recommendations For UST Program Improvement
EPA appointed a Blue Ribbon Panel in November 1998 to investigate the air quality benefits and water quality concerns associated with oxygenates in gasoline. The panel produced a report of their findings in September 1999. This report, Achieving Clean Air and Clean Water (PDF) (119 pp, 478K, About PDF), provided a number of recommmendations. The recommendations concern the underground storage tank (UST) programs at the federal, state, and local levels. Note that some of these recommendations may also be relevant to other agencies. There are additional recommendations which are not within the purview of the UST program and thus are not listed below.
Recommendations to Enhance Water Protection
- EPA, working with the states, should take the following actions to enhance significantly the federal and state underground storage tank programs:
- Accelerate enforcement of the replacement of existing tank systems and adding enforcement and compliance resources to ensure prompt enforcement action, especially in areas using RFG and Wintertime Oxyfuel.
- Evaluate the field performance of current system design requirements and technology and, based on that evaluation, improve system requirements to minimize leaks/releases, particularly in vulnerable areas.
- Strengthen release detection requirements to enhance early detection, particularly in vulnerable areas, and to ensure rapid repair and remediation.
- Require monitoring and reporting of MTBE and other ethers in groundwater at all UST release sites.
- Encourage states to require that the proximity to drinking water supplies, and the potential to impact those supplies, be considered in land-use planning and permitting decisions for siting of new UST facilities and petroleum pipelines.
- Implement and/or expand programs to train and license UST system installers and maintenance personnel.
- Work with Congress to examine and, if needed, expand the universe of regulated tanks to include underground and aboveground fuel storage systems that are not currently regulated yet pose substantial risk to drinking water supplies.
- EPA should work with its state and local water supply partners to enhance implementation of the federal and state Safe Drinking Water Act programs to:
- Coordinate the Source Water Assessment program in each state with federal and state Underground Storage Tank Programs using geographic information and other advanced data systems to determine the location of drinking water sources and to identify UST sites within source protection zones.
- Increase ongoing federal, state, and local efforts in Wellhead Protection Areas including:
- enhanced permitting, design, and system installation requirements for USTs and pipelines in these areas;
- strengthened efforts to ensure that non-operating USTs are properly closed;
- enhanced UST release prevention and detection; and
- improved inventory management of fuels.
- Implement, through public-private partnerships, expanded public education programs at the federal, state, and local levels on the proper handling and disposal of gasoline.
- Identifying and initiating research at a population of UST release sites and nearby drinking water supplies including sites with MTBE, sites with ethanol, and sites using no oxygenate.
Treatment and Remediation
- EPA should work with Congress to expand resources available for the up-front funding of the treatment of drinking water supplies contaminated with MTBE and other gasoline components to ensure that affected supplies can be rapidly treated and returned to service, or that an alternative water supply can be provided. This could take a number of forms, including but not limited to:
- Enhancing the existing federal Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund by fully appropriating the annual available amount in the Fund, ensuring that treatment of contaminated drinking water supplies can be funded, and streamlining the procedures for obtaining funding;
- Establishing another form of funding mechanism which ties the funding more directly to the source of contamination;
- Encouraging states to consider targeting State Revolving Funds (SRFs) to help accelerate treatment and remediation in high priority areas.
- Given the different behavior of MTBE in ground water when compared to other components of gasoline, states in RFG and Oxyfuel areas should reexamine and enhance state and federal "triage" procedures for prioritizing remediation efforts at UST sites based on their proximity to drinking water supplies.
Recommendations for Blending Fuel for Clean Air and Water
Reducing the Use of MTBE
- To ensure that any reduction is adequate to protect water supplies, the Panel recommends that EPA, in conjunction with the USGS, the Departments of Agriculture and Energy, industry, and water suppliers, should move quickly to:
- Conduct short-term modeling analyses and other research based on existing data to estimate current and likely future threats of contamination;
- Establish routine systems to collect and publish, at least annually, all available monitoring data on:
- levels of MTBE, Ethanol, and petroleum hydrocarbons found in ground, surface and drinking water;
- trends in detections and levels of MTBE, Ethanol, and petroleum hydrocarbons in ground and drinking water;
- Identify and begin to collect additional data necessary to adequately assess the current and potential future state of contamination.