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Underground Storage Tanks in PR and VI Checked For Compliance With Federal Leak Detection Rules

Release Date: 07/18/1997
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(#97099) San Juan, P.R. -- Inspectors from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Environmental Quality Board and the Department of Natural Resources swept through Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands this May as part of a nationwide initiative to find violations of federal leak detection requirements at underground storage tank (UST) facilities that went into effect in 1993. In Puerto Rico, 27% of the facilities checked (11 out of 41) were in violation of the government requirements. In the Virgin Islands, 19% (3 out of 18) failed; however, both jurisdictions are doing much better than the 38 % non-compliance rate observed nationally.

EPA Regional Administrator Jeanne M. Fox was cautious about the better than expected results of the inspections. "Leaks from underground storage tanks are the most common source of groundwater contamination and petroleum is the most common contaminant we find," said Fox . "Just one gallon of petroleum from a leaking tank can contaminate one million gallons of groundwater used for drinking water. Groundwater is a natural resource; a supplement to other water supplies for most residents of the Islands. Leak detection can help prevent a bear of a problem from getting loose in the environment. Groundwater contamination takes years to fix and is very expensive."

Most of the inspected facilities are privately owned, but some are owned by government agencies. The owners against whom enforcement actions were taken are expected to install release detection monitoring systems and keep records in accordance with federal requirements.

During the May enforcement sweep, inspectors also reminded owners and operators of USTs installed before 1988 that they have less than two years remaining in which to comply with spill requirements designed to prevent future leaks that will take effect in December 1998. EPA recently announced that the Agency will not extend the December 1998 deadline. Owners of USTs installed after December 1988 had to meet these requirements when the tanks were installed. Owners and operators of the older USTs will need to replace or upgrade their tanks to meet the requirements or close them properly.

The 1998 requirements are a key element in the ongoing government effort to prevent groundwater contamination. For more detailed information, tank owners/operators should contact the Environmental Quality Board at 787-767-8109 in Puerto Rico and the Department of Planning and Natural Resources at 809-774-3320 in the Virgin Islands.

Here are some recent examples of underground storage tank enforcement actions in the region:

* EPA issued an Administrative Complaint to the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA) alleging violations of UST requirements at 19 facilities and seeking a civil penalty of $305,297 for failure to comply with release detection and permanent closure requirements.

* EPA issued an Administrative Complaint to the Land Authority of Puerto Rico alleging, among other things, failure to provide release detection at several facilities and seeking a civil penalty of $165,310.

* EPA issued an Administrative Complaint/Compliance Order to Estate Mint, Inc. and other parties for failing to provide leak detection and to investigate a release. A penalty of $147, 610 is proposed.

* EPA issued a consent order to settle an administrative proceeding against the La Reine Station in St. Croix. The proceeding involved failure to comply with UST release detection and other requirements. Under the order, the company has paid a fine of $12,000 and is correcting the violations.

For more information contact:
Rafael Mayoral
EPA Carribean Environmental Protection Division
1492 Ponce DeLeon Ave, Suite 417
Santurce, PR 00909
Voice: 787-729-6951 FAX: 787-729-7747 E-Mail: