2005 National Notable Achievement Awards
Underground Storage Tanks
All six New England states rank underground storage tanks (USTs) as one of the top threats to source water. Reducing the risk of USTs to drinking water sources presents an important opportunity to better coordinate activities across program lines and use limited resources to the best extent possible. Region 1’s UST program, in consultation with the EPA Source Water Protection program, identified sites with USTs in Source Water Protection Areas (SWPA) for inspections. But since EPA performs only around 10% of the regional inspections, it became evident that the involvement of the state programs in a similar effort would yield a much higher pay off.
The regional UST group and regional SWPA group had several internal meetings and set up a program for targeting UST inspections in SWPAs at the state level. The two programs worked with the GIS office to develop state maps that identified where source water protection zones had USTs. This was an important tool in introducing the approach to the states, especially in states where the two programs are in different organizations. It was important to not only introduce the state staff to each other and have a forum for discussions, but to allow them to craft their own agreements across the two program areas. The Region’s Source Water Team worked closely together to identify the key state stakeholders, arrange for a joint meeting, and develop an agenda. By facilitating a meeting among and with all the states, the region brought about a dialogue across state programs that did not exist before.
Region 1 was the first region to use the Source Water Protection data developed by the states to map UST locations within the areas so that they could be targeted as priority inspection sites to protect the most vulnerable source water areas. By using GIS, the states were able to maximize their inspections to achieve the highest environmental results. In a joint memo issued from the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water and the Office of Underground Storage Tanks, Region 1 was cited as a example of the coordination that can occur and the benefits that can be derived from developing this cross-cutting coordination with the state agencies.
In the fall of 1996, the City of Santa Monica discovered persistent and increasing levels of the fuel additive MTBE in its Charnock wellfield, forcing it to shut down seven major water supply wells. Because of the tremendous increase in MTBE use as an oxygenate in the nation’s gasoline, EPA’s response to the contamination at Santa Monica would set an example for responding to a new groundwater threat potentially affecting every community throughout the country.
The team developed an original groundwater mathematical model to calculate the fate and transport of MTBE in the subsurface and to estimate the associated risk of ingesting groundwater. The model has become the national tool used to estimate potential impacts from MTBE releases. Community partnerships were crucial during initial investigations involving the drilling of wells and the collection of numerous samples in residential areas and on private business properties. The team worked closely with the PRPs and community stakeholders to assure that stakeholders’ concerns were heard and addressed.
The team set a national precedent by being the first in the country to use RCRA 7003 authority and 7003 “Participate and Cooperate” unilateral orders to force clean up of MTBE contamination. The team’s successful enforcement strategy culminated in a settlement of over $300 million to pay for water replacement costs, the construction of a full drinking water treatment facility, and other expenses related to the MTBE pollution. In addition, the team negotiated the Agency’s first Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) cost recovery consent decree, which will provide the legal precedent to pursue cost recovery at future LUST sites while returning $1.5 million to the LUST Trust Fund. It also serves notice that the Agency will pursue recovery of oversight costs at LUST cleanups just as it has at Superfund sites.
The multi-faceted enforcement strategy devised by the team to speed cleanup actions resulted in a comprehensive settlement between the major PRPs and the City of Santa Monica.The team’s successful enforcement efforts raised the visibility of liability related to releases of gasoline and the associated costs within the fuel distribution industry. This added level of concern helped the underground storage tank program encourage compliance with UST upgrade regulations and demonstrated the importance of compliance with EPA and State of California regulations.
2005 Ceremony Summary | 2005 Ceremomy Pictures
Federal Facility Response | Underground Storage Tanks | Superfund | Emergency Management | Regional Science | Environmental Justice | Superfund Enforcement | RCRA Corrective Action | Resource Conservation Challenge | Cross-Program Revitalization | Brownfields |