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Environmental Protection: More Complete Data and Continued Emphasis on Leak Prevention Could Improve EPA's Underground Storage Tank Program

GAO-06-45 Published: Nov 30, 2005. Publicly Released: Nov 30, 2005.
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Leaking underground storage tanks that contain hazardous products, primarily gasoline, can contaminate soil and groundwater. To address this problem, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), under its Underground Storage Tank (UST) Program, required tank owners to install leak detection equipment and take measures to prevent leaks. In 1986, the Congress created a federal trust fund to assist states with cleanups. Cleanup progress has been made, but, as of early 2005, cleanup efforts had not yet begun for over 32,000 tanks, many of which may require state and/or federal resources to address. GAO identified (1) data on the number and cleanup status of leaking tanks, (2) funding sources for tank cleanups, and (3) processes used by five states with large numbers of leaking tanks--California, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania--to identify, assess, and clean up sites.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Environmental Protection Agency To improve EPA's oversight of the leaking underground storage tank program and its ability to determine how to most efficiently and effectively allocate, Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund dollars to the states, the Administrator of EPA should require that states separately identify, in their reports to the agency, information on the number and cleanup status of all known abandoned underground storage tanks within their boundaries.
Closed – Not Implemented
EPA officials said that they do not believe that the burden to states associated with additional reporting requirements on known abandoned tank sites would be commensurate with the potential benefits to the program. Therefore, EPA does not plan to require states to separately identify information on known abandoned tanks or to adjust the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund allocation formula.

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ContaminationEnvironmental monitoringstate relationsHazardous substancesPollution controlProgram evaluationTanks (containers)Environmental cleanupsGasolineStorage tanks