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Florida C-stores Miss UST Deadline, Close

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- An estimated 1,000 or more retail fueling stations across Florida didn't upgrade fuel storage tanks in time for a state-mandated deadline Dec. 31, and have been forced to close, according to a report in the Fort Myers News-Press, citing the state's Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

The DEP was charged with enforcing the deadline for upgrading single-walled underground storage tanks (UST) and piping to double-wall systems; and replacing above-ground storage tanks without a secondary spill containment beneath the tanks. According to the DEP, the Dec. 31 deadline is considered met as long as the single-wall tanks have been removed, according to a report in the Destin Log. The state's legislature passed the law in 1992, as a way to protect groundwater supplies.

More than 80 percent of all retail gas stations and convenience stores have completed the upgrades, according to DEP estimates cited by the paper. Those that have not completed the upgrades must close and not reopen until the upgrades have been made, the report stated.

However, many small station operators lacked cash and could not get financing to pay for the tank upgrades, which cost $200,000 to $400,000, Pat Moricca, president of the Florida Gasoline Retailers Association in Longwood, told the News-Press.

The deadline is providing opportunities to some Florida businesses. Warren Sands, who in December opened a Valero station with a Dunkin' Donuts quick-service restaurant in Bayshore.

Despite the recession, "we're very pleasantly surprised by the response," Sands told the paper. His Miami-based Sands Petroleum Development offers tank-upgrade services and is expanding its portfolio of convenience stores and service stations through new construction or renovation, the report stated.
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