Leaking Underground Storage Tanks: A Threat to Public Health & Environment
Leaking USTs (Leaking Gas Tank in Chicago) are a grave threat to America’s groundwater. Gas stations, industries and other entities use USTs to hold toxic material such as gasoline and oil that contain dangerous substances, including benzene, toluene and heavy metals that can cause cancer and harm developing children. USTs can threaten communities as their walls corrode by silently leaking toxins into our drinking water supplies, homes and businesses.
There are approximately 680,000 USTs and a backlog of 130,000 cleanups; 9,000 new leaks are discovered annually. In 2004, UST cleanups declined by 22 percent compared to 2003. Chemicals in USTs can quickly move through soil and pollute groundwater. One gallon of petroleum can contaminate one million gallons of water. One pin-prick sized hole in an UST can leak 400 gallons of fuel a year. More than 100 million people drink groundwater in states where delayed cleanups threaten groundwater quality.
The federal government has $2.4 billion in surplus taxpayer UST cleanup funds collected from a fee on gasoline sales, but past administrations have proposed to spend only $73 million to clean up sites in 2006, just 3 percent of surplus funds. Current and future administrations should help protect communities by funding more cleanups, prevention and enforcement activities at UST sites.
Given the serious threat to public health from leaking USTs, federal and state governments must undertake five common-sense actions:
1. Fund more cleanups, prevention & enforcement activities;
2. Require secondary containment, leak detection & biannual inspections 3. Enforce protections in states that fail to safeguard communities;
4. Make polluters pay to clean up contamination from leaking USTs
5. Ensure that people know about leaking USTs in their communities.
The state of Illinois has one of the largest clean up backlogs in the entire U.S. and many businesses with tanks will need to deal with the issue of a leaking gas tank in Chicago and surrounding areas. Finding and hiring a qualified environmental consultant is very important. A qualified environmental consultant can quickly assess your property and then propose a solution to remove the source of contamination whether it be from an underground storage tank or other source.