Rhode Island has found a more cost-effective way to prevent underground petroleum storage tanks threatening water supplies, according to a study conducted by the state’s Department of Environmental Management.
The study, “Reducing Drinking Water Supply Chemical Contamination: Risks from Underground Storage Tanks,” was funded by the EPA’s National Center for State Innovation through a three-year grant.
The US Energy Policy Act of 2005 mandates that state environmental agencies inspect all underground storage tank (UST) facilities once every three years. Many states struggle to meet the requirement, often stretching existing resources or complying at significant expense, the study said.
As of September 2008, more than 470,000 UST releases had been recorded in the United States. The EPA reported 7,300 new leaks in 2008 and nearly 103,000 old leaks remained to be cleaned up.
The EPA-funded study evaluated a new regulatory model that aims to decrease agencies’ frequency of inspections among low-risk facilities, without sacrificing compliance performance or increasing public health risks.
The study applied a model comprised of four components: regulatory assistance, compliance certification using standardized checklists, independent agency inspections and statistically-based performance measurement. The model was adapted from an Environmental Results Program (ERP) effort developed in Massachusetts.