Program Helps Those Stuck With Abandoned Storage Tanks

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Leaking underground storage tanks are frequently the cause of groundwater contamination, and the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) wants to help rural communities reduce this risk.

The Municipal Tank Closure and Corrective Action Program, administered by ADEQ, pays the removal costs of abandoned underground storage tanks, as well as costs associated with contaminant investigations and cleanup in towns with fewer than 15,000 residents.

Underground tanks found at abandoned gasoline stations, dry cleaning establishments, auto repair shops and paint stores are examples of the types of tanks eligible for funding.

A defunct dry cleaning establishment was the likely cause of severe groundwater contamination on the south side of Payson. ADEQ has since worked to mitigate the contamination with an $8 million cleanup effort.

Testing of Payson's groundwater also has revealed low levels of contaminants associated with releases from underground gasoline tanks. This now occurs less frequently due to federal guidelines and regulation of underground storage tanks.

The program, created in 2001 has thus far paid for the removal of 24 abandoned storage tanks from five communities. Applications have been approved or are pending in six other communities.

As ADEQ Director Steve Owens points out, removing the tanks also has economic benefits.

"This program is a really great tool to help small communities deal with abandoned tanks and the associated development issues," Owens said. "In many cases, the existence of these abandoned tanks hinders redevelopment or prevents someone from buying old or vacant commercial properties, so this is a program that benefits the whole community."

ADEQ estimates as many as 2,000 abandoned tanks exist along highways and in small communities around the state. The city of Winslow successfully removed five orphaned tanks, and Holbrook is the latest community to take advantage of the program.

Interested applicants should contact their city or town manager's office, which will complete the application and forward it to ADEQ for an eligibility review. As part of the review, ADEQ officials try to determine whether an owner of the tank, defined as a party who filled or operated the tank, can be identified and held accountable. If not, the tank qualifies for the program.

For more information about this program or to receive an application, contact ADEQ's Underground Storage Tank Customer Service Manager Al Johnson at (800) 234-5677 or e-mail him at johnson.allen@ev.state. az.us.

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