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Arkansas Man to Pay Largest Penalty in State for Underground Storage Tank Violations

Release Date: 9/5/1997
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

A Mountain Home man has agreed to pay the largest penalty assessed in Arkansas for violating rules governing underground storage tanks at five local businesses.

"This is the second time EPA has fined this individual for violating underground storage tank regulations. The Agency sought this $87,500 penalty because he has continued to ignore regulations designed to protect the public health and the environment," Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Regional Administrator Jerry Clifford said.

The penalty follows joint inspections May 10, and June 1, 1994, by EPA and the Arkansas Department of Pollution Control and Ecology. The agencies inspected 18 underground tanks at Caney General Store, Southside Fina, Muffler World, Mountain Home 66 and Main Street Conoco. All are owned by Donald Lacefield.

Inspectors found 35 violations. They included failure to notify the state of unusual operating conditions, to investigate suspected leaks, to register a tank and to operate leak detection systems on underground tanks and piping.

Most older underground tanks are made of steel, which is likely to corrode and leak, posing a risk to drinking water. Federal regulations became effective December 22, 1988, requiring any tanks installed underground to have corrosion protection, spill and overfill prevention, and release detection systems. Owners of existing tanks were allowed 10 years, until December 22, 1998, to upgrade the tanks to meet the current standards or to remove them.

"EPA estimates there are more than 16,000 underground storage tanks in Arkansas. Inspections indicate only 30 percent to 40 percent of those meet the standards," Mr. Clifford said.

EPA and state environmental agencies have increased compliance inspections to ensure that tank owners are working to meet the 1998 deadline. Generally, field citations, with penalties ranging from $50 to $300 per violation, are issued for minor violations which can be corrected in 30 to 60 days. However, if there is a history of non-compliance or the violations are numerous, substantially larger penalties are imposed.