Michigan Needs Millions To Clean Up UST Leaks

Michigan needs an extra $80 million a year to clean up contaminated sites. But it needs even more -- $122 million a year -- to clean up thousands of properties where gasoline has leaked underground, threatening drinking-water supplies, according to one newspaper account.

"We're not making any headway" cleaning up spills under old gas stations, Andrew Hogarth, chief of the Department of Environmental Quality's cleanup program, told the Kalamazoo Gazette.

With more than 7,100 such sites in Michigan, "we're third in the nation behind only California and Florida,'' Hogarth said. "And both of those states have programs with fees that bring in more than $200 million a year.''

In Michigan, a tax on gasoline sales brings in $55 million annually to clean up the gasoline-soaked soils and polluted groundwater. But the DEQ estimates it needs $177 million a year to make any progress because new gasoline leaks are being discovered at about the same rate as old ones are being cleaned up. Today, there are 9,060 leaking underground storage tanks in the state, according to the report.

To make matters worse, DEQ officials said, the state may end up paying to clean up about 3,500 of those tanks.

"We estimate that half of those [current 7,100 sites] are orphan sites, where the liable party is bankrupt or just doesn't have the assets to deal with the problem,'' Hogarth told the newspaper.
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