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One Year Left to Meet UST Regulations

Release Date: 12/19/1997
Contact Information: Lauris Davies
(206) 553-1728 or (800) 424-4372

December 19, 1997 - - - - - - - - - 97-78

Owners and operators of underground storage tanks have only one year left -- until December 22, 1998 -- to meet a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency deadline set nine years ago for properly upgrading, replacing or closing their tanks.

The 1998 date is the deadline to comply with rules to help protect the nation's ground water, the source of drinking water for more than half the American population. Underground tanks are the most common source of ground water contamination, with petroleum products the most common contaminant.

EPA's requirements went into effect nine years ago -- on December 22, 1988. Any tanks installed before that date and not already protected against corrosion, spills and overfills must be upgraded, replaced or closed by December 22, 1998.

Tanks subject to the deadline are used to store gasoline, diesel fuel or other petroleum products at service stations and vehicle fleet refueling facilities. Tanks storing certain hazardous chemicals, usually at industrial facilities, must also meet the deadline.

Lauris Davies, manager of EPA's Northwest regional ground water protection unit in Seattle, said the agency announced last May that it would not extend the deadline.

"It would not be fair to those tank owners who have already complied with the underground storage tanks requirements," Davies said. "More than a third of the tank owners in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest have met the requirements, and at considerable expense."

Costs of coming into compliance with the 1998 requirements vary widely, Davies said, depending on the size of and nature of the facility, local labor rates and other factors.

EPA furnished the following set of estimates, to suggest the costs that might be encountered by a tank owner or operator:
  • to upgrade a three-tank facility, costs start at about $11,000.
  • to replace three tanks and piping, costs would range between $80,000 and $100,000;
  • to close a tank (which includes draining and cleaning the tank, and either removing it or filling it with inert material), costs might range between $5,000 to $11,000 and do not include the cost of site assessments to determine whether soils or groundwater has been contaminated, nor do they include the cost of any cleanup that may be necessary.

Davies urged underground tank owners and operators not to delay complying with the regulations.

"If everyone waits until the last minute, tank owners and operators might not find enough qualified contractors available to do the work," Davies said. "The increased demand for contractors could easily drive up prices or, if there aren't enough contractors to go around, tank owners and operators will miss the 1998 deadline and will be exposed to penalties. Putting things off could be costly."

More information about underground storage tanks can be obtained from the following state agencies. The 800 numbers in Alaska, Oregon and Washington are toll-free for callers within each of those states.

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Juneau
(800) 478-4974

Idaho Division of Environmental Quality, Boise
(208) 373-0502

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Portland
(800) 452-4011

Washington Department of Ecology, Olympia
(800) 826-7716

EPA's regulatory requirements are explained in a 16-page booklet, "Don't Wait Until 1998." Another useful EPA booklet is "Financing Underground Storage Tank Work: Federal and State Assistance Programs." Just click on the title to download UST publications.