Underground Storage Tank Leaks Trigger Closure Of Northern Arizona Gas Stations

Jan 17, 2020

Flagstaff residents in recent months may have noticed a handful of shuttered gas stations in the city. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, they’re among nearly 300 locations in the state with leaking underground storage tanks.

A former Giant station on Milton Road in Flagstaff sits vacant with a chain-link fence around it following an underground storage tank leak. According to ADEQ, the leak caused soil contamination and no clean-up effort has begun at the site.
Credit Ryan Heinsius / KNAU

Gas station infrastructure can corrode over time and create environmental and health risks. According to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality, six in Flagstaff have leaking underground tanks—half have begun or completed cleanup, but the others haven’t started any remediation. In all, there are 85 sites with leaking underground tanks in northern Arizona.

"We do have a number of sites that have groundwater contamination and that’s the major threat … Every aquifer in the state of Arizona is designated as a drinking water aquifer. We hold our groundwater resources—all of our water resources—very precious," says Laura Malone, director of the agency’s Waste Programs division who oversees the tank clean-up program.

ADEQ says 95% of the leaks detected in the last four decades have been cleaned up.

Sandy Bahr with the Sierra Club, however, says leaks should mainly be the responsibility of tank owners, and the program should focus more on ensuring proper installation, monitoring and enforcement.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates there are more than half-a-million underground tank leaks nationwide. Nearly 60,000 have yet to be cleaned up.