EPA Fines Military for Underground Tank Violations at West Point

The U.S. Army and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service failed to comply with critical environmental laws related to underground tanks used to store diesel fuel, gasoline, and used oil at the West Point Garrison in New York, according to a complaint issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Both military branches failed to monitor, test, and keep records for their underground petroleum storage tanks, said the agency, which is requiring the two parties to comply with regulations and is seeking a $167,116 penalty.

"Out of sight does not mean out of mind when it comes to underground petroleum storage tanks, and it is critical that facilities monitor their tanks and make sure they are not leaking," said EPA Regional Administrator Judith Enck. "Given the proximity of the West Point facility to both a source of public drinking water and the Hudson River, leaks from its underground diesel, gasoline, and used oil storage systems could have caused a serious environmental problem."

In its complaint, EPA states that the Army neglected to monitor the tanks for leaks, adequately protect against potential spills, and investigate operating conditions. EPA also says both parties failed to test leak detection devices at three tanks owned by the Army and operated by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service. The underground storage tank systems at the facility stored fuel for vehicles and emergency generators, and used oil. Several of the violations date back to the installation of the tanks and equipment, which took place 18 years ago. The Army and the Army and Air Force Exchange Service have stated that their underground storage tank systems are now in compliance.

EPA noted that leaking underground storage tanks pose significant threats to soil, surface water, and ground water across the nation. Petroleum releases from the tanks can contaminate water, making it unsafe to drink, pose fire and explosion hazards, and can have short- and long-term effects on people’s health. More than 600,000 underground storage tank systems exist nationwide, and more than 375,000 leaking tanks have been cleaned up over the last decade, the agency said.

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