TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -
Pollution from underground storage tanks at shuttered gasoline stations has
plagued Michigan for years, as state officials and retailers battle over
cleanup, Bridge Magazine reports.
With 9,100 sites, the state has the second most polluted leaking underground
storage tanks (LUST) in the nation.
Fuel from leaking tanks have
crept into soil and groundwater, sometimes even into surface waters and
drinking water wells. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found 1,440
of Michigan€™s LUST sites to be an immediate risk to human health.
In the 1980s, federal
regulations changed how gas stations stored fuel underground, moving away from
metal tanks to fiberglass ones. Leak detection systems help alert owners of
In Michigan, the state€™s
LUST cleanup program has degenerated, with the state having one of the country€™s
worst cleanup completion rates. Complete cleanups have plummeted 80% since the
late 1990s, with the average cost four times the national average.
"We basically need to
reinvent the program so we can get back to being one of the leaders in the nation
in terms of managing our LUST sites," said Anne Couture, acting chief of the
Michigan Department of Environmental Quality€™s (DEQ) remediation division. "We
used to be at the forefront and now we are near the bottom."
Contributing to the low
cleanup rate are changes to the state€™s environmental liability standards,
alterations to DEQ cleanup policies and decimation of the state€™s LUST funding.
Legislation currently in
the Legislature would reform the program. "The increasingly complex
environmental compliance requirements and the inability to close LUST sites are
inhibiting job creation and business growth in Michigan," said Mark Griffin,
president of the Michigan Petroleum Association/Michigan Association of
Senate recently approved raiding the federal LUST fund to allocate those
monies for the transportation bill.