How Michigan is Dealing With Underground Storage Tank Leaks

Michigan is working to clean up underground storage tank spills across the state with new initiatives that bring revenue and a dedicated team to the task of spill clean up. Of the state’s 18,777 underground storage tanks, 7,202 have leaked at some point in their lifetime. Michigan’s Department of Environmental Quality estimates that these sites are responsible for 9,200 releases, or spills, which means that many tanks have experienced more than one release before being replaced. While more than half of the tanks currently in use are considered low risk, the DEQ estimates that the remaining tanks will have to be replaced in the next 5 to 10 years. These tanks are often old metal tanks, which are replaced by new fiberglass storage tanks.

From 1988-1995 the state had the Michigan Underground Storage Tank Financial Assurance Fund, which aimed at helping gas station owners repair or replace leaking underground storage tanks. Revenue for the fund was generated from a 7/8 of a cent tax on gasoline. The program ran out of money in 1995, after which the number of spill clean ups dropped significantly. In 2004 the gas tax returned, but funded the new Refined Petroleum Fund. Most of the money in this fund was used for different projects until just recently.

In 2012, legislators in Michigan passed reforms aimed at curtailing the amount of storage tank leaks. The state created an underground storage tank system cleanup advisory board, funded by the Refined Petroleum Fund, as well as several other amendments, which “intend to provide more cost effective and efficient closures of LUST [Leaking Underground Storage Tank] releases while maintaining acceptable protectiveness of human health.”

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