Taking Initiative in Cleaning Up Underground Storage Tank Leaks

Cleaning up leaking underground storage tank sites (also known by the acronym LUST), is a priority for any state. LUST sites can result in significant damage to the environment and can contaminate local water supplies and make land unfit for use for farming or developing. As such, many states have funds and organizational bodies devoted to cleaning up underground storage tank leaks. In Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources and an UST cleanup advisory board are tasked with cleaning up leaking tank sites.

In total, 22,394 releases have been catalogued by the EPA in Michigan, and of these, almost 40% have not been cleaned up. While the EPA has commended the state for making “significant progress” in taking care of the 8,872 leaks that have not been cleaned up, “only 16 percent of releases are high priority. A full 33 percent have so little information about them the state has not identified a priority classification.”

With the large volume of releases in the state, it’s no surprise that the state is taking some time to process them all. However, owners of properties on which LUST are present should look to a recent court ruling when considering whether to wait until the state processes their case or to take proactive measures.

In a recent ruling by the state’s Court of Appeals, “The trial court found that the owner of the USTs and the owners of the properties were liable for past and future response costs, completion of remedial activities, civil fines [and] administrative penalties.” This was after the owner reported the releases on their property and hired a consultant to begin the process of response to the releases, but did not submit a final assessment report as required. The state twice requested this document before filing an official complaint several years later. As this case shows, working with the state for the duration of the process would have saved this property owner time and money.

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