by Mike Sharkey
Over the past year or so, you may have noticed many of the area’s gas stations have been in some sort of disrepair for several weeks at a time.
Some were replacing their gas tanks, the lines to the pumps and the pumps themselves. Many, however, had the tanks and line dug up and “double-walled” as part of a 10-year mandate handed down by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. The deadline to meet that mandate was Dec. 31.
“All underground storage tanks and the lines had to be double walled to protect the groundwater,” said George Nail, vice president of Gate Petroleum.
Nail said several Gate stations of the 50 in the area were forced to comply with the mandate. Others that looked like they were under repair were planned remodels. Either way, it was a lengthy and expensive venture.
“It was about a 4-6 week process and that depended on the variables. Most stations probably scheduled six weeks,” he said. “Generally, when we upgrade the tanks, the store is closed as well, but not all the time. It’s unsafe for workers and you are literally out of business. On average, it cost about $300,000.”
Nail said the State DEP didn’t provide any funding assistance to stations that were simply modifying the gas tanks and lines. Marguerite Jordan, a public information officer for FDEP, said some assistance was available depending on the circumstances.
“The Department has neither the authority nor the funding needed to provide financial assistance to owners or operators of petroleum facilities in order to help meet the upgrade deadline,” she said. “Certain facilities that are eligible for state funded clean up were able to apply for funding for removal of soil contamination discovered during the tank upgrades under the Limited Scope Removal Initiative.”
According to Jordan, about 20,000 facilities statewide were affected by the mandate which was handed down by former Gov. Lawton Chiles.
“During the mid 1980s there were many incidents where drinking water wells were contaminated by leaking underground petroleum tanks,” said Jordan. “One example is the City of Belleview’s Water System which had to abandon its water well field that was contaminated from a leaking gasoline tank in August 1982.”
One area station, the BP at the corner of San Pablo Road and Atlantic Boulevard, is in the process of modifying its tanks. The store is closed and both phone numbers listed are disconnected. However, Jordan said there may be reasons the owner didn’t meet the Dec. 31 deadline and there may or may nor be penalties.
“Penalties are determined on a case by case basis depending on the situation,” she said. “Retail facilities such as gas stations and convenience stores that did not meet the deadline at the end of the year had three options available to them”
Those options are:
• If they had a contract in place to have the work performed, they qualified to be granted a three-month extension beyond the Dec. 31 deadline.
• They were allowed to remain in business after the deadline if non-compliant tanks were taken out of service or permanently closed.
• If they needed more time to have the upgrades done, they were able to work with the Department to enter into a consent order designed to achieve compliance within a specified period.