Apr 07, 2017

EPA, California Reduce Groundwater Threats in State

State & agency clean or test 381 abandoned storage tanks

epa, california, groundwater, storage tanks, petroleum

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) have successfully cleaned up abandoned and potentially leaking underground petroleum storage tanks throughout California. Since 2013, actions taken at 381 tanks located on 157 properties have prevented contamination and paved the way for redevelopment.

Due to high cleanup costs, these tank sites remained vacant or underutilized for decades, lowering property values and creating blight in many communities. EPA and the State Water Board worked with property owners to inspect the sites. If owners were unable or unwilling to take action, EPA and the state, in collaboration with local regulatory agencies, stepped in to remove the tanks or their hazardous contents.

“Our initiative has protected groundwater and revitalized properties across California,” said Alexis Strauss, EPA acting regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “And there’s still work to be done—EPA and the State Water Board will work with local agencies on 119 more sites where abandoned tanks remain a risk.” 

Cleaning up underground storage tanks can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $1.5 million depending on contamination at the site. The greatest potential threat from a leaking underground storage tank is contamination of groundwater, the source of drinking water for 30% of all Californians, a figure that rises to 60% during a drought.  

Results achieved include:

  • 193 abandoned tanks removed from 83 sites;
  • 19 abandoned tanks cleaned and filled at 8 sites;
  • 124 abandoned tanks tested for leaks and returned to service at 51 sites; and
  • 16,500 gal of petroleum removed from 45 abandoned tanks at another 15 sites.
  • Of the 157 sites, 78 were located in Southern California, 55 in Central California, and 24 in Northern California.

Project examples include:

Former American & Foreign Auto Site (Fresno, Calif.): This former gas station/auto repair shop, dating back to 1937, contained four abandoned underground storage tanks. With upcoming construction of the Downtown Fresno high-speed rail station 1/2 mile from the site, the City of Fresno plans to rezone the area from mixed commercial and industrial use to residential and retail. To support the city’s efforts, EPA removed the four tanks, 6,000 lb of piping, 1,160 gal of petroleum liquids, 61 tons of concrete, and 23 tons of asphalt in August 2014. The new owner intends to redevelop the property into a restaurant.

Watts Labor Community Action Center (WLCAC) Site (Los Angeles): A nonprofit struggled to redevelop the property due to tank permitting fees owed to the City of Los Angeles. EPA worked to renegotiate the fees with the city so that an abandoned underground storage tank could be emptied and removed. EPA took out the 10,000-gal tank that had been abandoned since 2001 and still contained 450 gal of gasoline. Its removal now allows WLCAC to host fundraising concerts, and it is planning for an after-school basketball program for local kids.

Former El Dorado Auto Site (Stockton, Calif.): The property was a gas station in the 1950s, an auto repair shop in the 1970s, and is currently a tire shop. During a site survey, EPA and San Joaquin County inspectors found four abandoned underground storage tanks with a substantial amount of petroleum liquid. In September 2016, EPA arranged for the removal and recycling of 5,750 gal of oil and other liquids from the tanks, and had all four tanks sealed with concrete plugs to prevent illegal dumping until the current or future property owners can remove the tanks.

Former Atwater Gascard and Former Atwater Gas-N-Save Mart (Atwater, Calif.):  EPA, the State Water Board, and Merced County partnered to remove and recycle a total of 1,435 gal of petroleum and seal six abandoned underground storage tanks with concrete plugs to prevent illegal dumping until the current or future property owners can remove the tanks.

For more information on EPA’s Underground Storage Tank Program, visit www.epa.gov/ust.