Federal and state authorities have begun the massive job of digging out disintegrating underground steel storage tanks from dozens of locations along California’s I-710 Freeway.
Work crews began the $1.3 million project last week in Compton, CA, where they planned to excavate three 10,000-gallon tanks from a gas station that was burned down and abandoned in 1992.
|Works crews begin excavating underground storage tanks at an abandoned gas station in Compton, CA. Dozens of old steel storage tanks are expected to be removed under the state-federal partnership.|
The cleanup might also involve soil excavation and removal, Jeff Scott, director of the EPA’s waste management division, told KPCC-FM.
“These are old steel tanks for holding gasoline, and the older technology from the ‘70s and ‘80s was more prone to leak over time,” said Scott.
“It’s very likely that the tanks that we’re cleaning up today have contaminated some of the soil around it, and we’ll be looking into that and removing some of that soil.”
The project is a collaboration between California’s State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The so-called Underground Storage Tank (UST) Cleanup Partnership was launched in December 2010, funded by a variety of federal, state and local sources.
The partnership aims to accelerate the cleanup of abandoned gas station sites and improve compliance by operating gas stations in the I-710 Corridor. A key goal is to assess sites where the environmental conditions are unknown and there is no willing or able responsible party to conduct the work.
The I-710 freeway passes through 19 cities and unincorporated areas with a population of more than 1 million people, most of them minority and low income. The area is dense with truck traffic, industrial facilities, houses, schools, day cares and senior centers. It also has a high density of abandoned gas stations.
Scope of Work
The first phase of the project will address three sites, each with two or three tanks, through June, EPA spokeswoman Laurie Martinez Amaro wrote in an email Tuesday (April 17). The whole project is expected to run through 2013, but the overall scope of the work is not yet known.
|Many of the stations targeted for cleanup have been abandoned. The Compton station was abandoned after burning down in 1992.|
“We are still identifying sites and working through the process to determine additional sites that can be addressed using public funds,” Amaro said.
The EPA and Water Board have contacted site owners to compel them to conduct the work themselves or to provide EPA and the state with access to assess the site, Amaro said
64 Abandoned Sites
Since the partnership began, the group has:
• Produced an inventory of 64 abandoned gas stations as a first step toward cleanup and future development;
• Selected 29 sites in need of assessment and cleanup;
• Tracked down the owners of 18 old gas station sites that have not gone through the required cleanup process and informed them they are responsible for site assessment and cleanup;
• Conducted initial assessments at seven sites;
• Secured federal funding for field investigations at eight sites;
• Nominated six sites for state funding for site cleanup;
• Assisted with the closure of 37 cleanup cases; and
• Reached out to a variety of local agencies to identify local needs and the best approach to address them.
Making a Difference
The EPA has had an Underground Storage Tank program since 2005, but the I-710 initiative is believed to be the first to target a region or corridor specifically for UST assessment, Amaro said.
Scott said the cleanup “really makes a difference in individual communities.”
He told KPCC: “We can take a site like this that’s just sitting there as a blighted sight, attracting crime and litter and everything else, and clean it up and make it so that it can be redeveloped into a small business and create some jobs—or at least have a use to the community.”