NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Public Sector Ignores Leaking Fuel Tanks

August 8, 2000

While private industry spent millions to comply with a 1998 federal deadline to upgrade leaking underground fuel tanks, states and local governments continue to depend upon thousands of antiquated tanks in danger of leaking chemicals into water supplies, records show.

  • Leaking fuel tanks have already tainted wells from New York to California.
  • A 1998 study by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California found traces of the gasoline additive MTBE in more than 10,000 sites in that state.
  • About 85 percent of the 750,000 storage tanks still in the ground nationwide were in compliance as of March, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • State and local enforcement officials -- who have vigorously pursued compliance among private tank owners -- have reportedly taken a more lenient approach toward government-owned tanks.

"If you're a state EPA inspector, are you going to go around to the state police, or are you going to check private citizens?" asks John Huber, vice president of the Petroleum Marketers Association of America.

Beyond contributing to soil and ground-water contamination, the failures of cities, counties and state governments to upgrade underground storage tanks has cost taxpayers perhaps millions of dollars in the past two years.

Source: Paul Zielbauer, "States and Cities Flout Law on Underground Fuel Tanks," New York Times, August 8, 2000.


Browse more articles on Environment Issues