Letters to the Editor: Closing tanks was right thing to do

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By The Staff

To the editor:

In the Jan. 28 edition, the Skylight Country store cries foul, claiming that EPA is trying to put small gas stations out of business. Is that really true? Of course not! Many environmental laws have been enacted to protect air, land and water that we humans require to sustain our lives. The Leaking Underground Storage Tank program is one such set of laws and regulations.

In 1984 – 26 years ago – amendments to the statute known as RCRA required EPA to set requirements and standards for the design, installation, leak detection, spill and overfill control, corrective action and closure of underground tanks that hold petroleum and hazardous chemicals. After public comment (including from tank owners and operators), these rules were issued in 1988.

The final regulations, issued in 1998, required that all tanks be upgraded, replaced or closed; however, the testing, inspection, upgrading and closure/removal of tanks were going on since 1988. No one in the business of selling fuels from underground tanks should claim surprise regarding requirements to comply with legal standards.

Gasoline isn’t harmless and its key constituents aren’t always safe for people. Benzene increases the risk of cancer with long-term exposure; toluene and ethyl benzene may cause damage to the liver, kidneys and central nervous system; MTBE is highly soluble and can make drinking water unfit for consumption. Sorry, but I’m not interested in having any of these chemicals in my water, nor paying more because water has to be cleaned up before I can drink it. As it is, $.001 per gallon gas any of us has purchased since 1987 goes into the LUST Trust Fund to pay for cleanup of leaking tanks that have been abandoned.

EPA is monitoring hundreds of thousands of sites with underground tanks. All operators are treated the same under the regulations. Underground tanks with fuel in them corrode over time; if they leak, their contents enter the soil and groundwater. So here’s a reality check: the regulations were enacted to protect Ms. Claggett, her family, customers, neighbors – people who need clean water to drink and clean soil to grow the food we eat. Food and water originate from the earth, not local stores. The laws are about protecting people and our community.

The Skylight Country Store is to be commended for doing the right thing by properly closing their tanks.

Lisa L. Fleming

La Grange