The U.S. Navy will pay nearly $161,000 in fines to settle federal claims that it failed to properly monitor pipes and underground fuel storage tanks for leaks at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, in Silverdale, WA.
The Navy has 53 underground storage tanks on the base for storing diesel, used oil and gasoline.
Images: U.S. Navy
|Naval Base Kitsap Bangor was created in 2004 by merging the former Naval Station Bremerton with Naval Submarine Base Bangor.|
To detect leaks quickly, federal law requires that underground storage tanks be monitored monthly and pipes be equipped with a leak detector and tested annually or monitored monthly.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, which inspected the base in March 2010, the Navy had the appropriate monitoring equipment in place at most of the sites, but it failed to check the monitors each month and document that the tanks and pipes were not leaking.
The EPA inspects facilities with underground tanks every three years.
The violations occurred between 2006 and 2010, according to EPA. The inspected tanks ranged in capacity from 170 gallons to 45,000 gallons.
EPA inspectors identified 37 violations in all, including:
• Failure to properly monitor the tanks and pipes for leaks;
• Failure to have the proper leak detection equipment installed for the pipes; and
• Failure to provide an adequate alarm system to prevent delivery drivers from overfilling the tanks.
The Navy has corrected the violations since the inspection and has agreed to provide documentation showing it is in compliance with proper monitoring, EPA said.
No Leaks Seen
“Luckily, we did not find a leak during the time period we were looking at,” Anne Christopher, of the EPA’s Groundwater Unit in Seattle, told the Kiltsap Sun. “But the whole point of the underground storage tank program is it's preventive. If there was a leak, they'd detect it quickly.”
Leaks from underground storage tanks allow toxic fumes and vapors to escape and collect, posing a risk of explosion or respiratory illness. Toxic contaminants can also leak into groundwater sources of drinking water. Monitoring regulations are designed to minimize these risks.
“EPA is working hard to restore Puget Sound, and fuel leaks near the shoreline could seriously set us back,” said Peter Contreras, Groundwater Unit manager. “Nearby communities also rely on groundwater for drinking water, so preventing releases protects both Puget Sound and public health.”
|The base’s environmentally sensitive location leaves area waterways, including Puget Sound, vulnerable to underground fuel leaks.|
Navy: Tanks Alarmed
All of the base’s tank systems have audible and visual alarms if tanks leak, the Navy told the Sun. The systems are certified by an independent laboratory to meet EPA standards and are inspected annually by technicians certified by the manufacturer, the newspaper reported.
During the March 2010 inspection, monitoring systems were operating at all sites, showing they were operating properly and no fuel or oil was leaking, the Navy told the newspaper.
Before the EPA inspection, the Navy said, it had found inadequate record-keeping regarding the tanks and had filed complaints with EJB Facilities Services, the contractor that maintains and operates the tanks. The Navy said EJB had corrected or was correcting the problems before the inspection.
The Navy also said that it had completed more than $600,000 worth of projects on fueling systems since the EPA inspection, including upgraded monitoring systems for 15 tanks, and had recently awarded an additional $375,000 worth of fuel system upgrade contracts, the Sun reported.