$2.3M going toward environmental cleanup - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

$2.3M going toward environmental cleanup

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Posted: Friday, July 10, 2009 1:06 pm | Updated: 12:41 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

State environmental officials received $2.3 million in federal stimulus dollars to clean up the mess left by underground storage tanks that leaked gasoline and other petroleum products into the ground.

And the cash is going almost exclusively to rural areas.

The funds represent Arizona's share of nearly $191 million in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act specifically dedicated to helping states deal with leaking tanks. California - at nearly $15.6 million - got the most, followed by Florida at $11.3 million and Texas at $10.8 million.

Benjamin Grumbles, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, said the decision was made to target specific areas where aging tanks leaked gasoline into the soil.

"These are abandoned or idle," he said, many of these being "orphan" sites where the owner of the property - or at least the owner at the time the tank was installed or abandoned - cannot be clearly identified.

Grumbles said, though, that the state will have the option to try to recover the costs if the responsible party can be found - and if that individual or firm actually has the resources.

He called the funding "an important boost for environmental protection and for revitalization," saying once the sites are cleaned up, the areas can be redeveloped for other uses.

But Grumbles said that wasn't the only consideration in dividing up the cash. He said geography played a role, with a conscious decision to spread the money around across the entire state.

In most cases, the tanks themselves have been removed but the contamination remains. The funding will be used to clean up the soil as well as any groundwater that was polluted.

Laura Yoshii, acting regional administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, said the funding will do more than protect water supplies. She said it will create "green jobs that will improve our economy."

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