Underground storage tanks are an unseen danger that can pollute the ground in Missouri, Illinois, and throughout the rest of the country, with many being none the wiser. Leaking gas and oil tanks also pose a risk for explosions or fires considering that it can be difficult if not impossible to detect leaks if people are unaware of an underground storage tank’s existence in the first place. One report from last year indicated that Chicago could have as many as 21,150 such underground storage tanks within its limits, with at least 3,353 of those being reported as leaking as of 2012. According to city personnel, another 1,800 storage tanks needed to be cleaned up.
The report indicated that one area of contamination was actually located on the site of a potential school in southeast Chicago. Some expressed concern at that prospect because a small but noticeable level of benzene had been discovered at the site. Benzene is a known carcinogen and the risk of exposure to schoolchildren is an obvious fear for parents and public officials alike.
An Illinois EPA spokesperson revealed that the source of the benzene contamination at the proposed school site was a 5,000-gallon gasoline tank that leaked. The Chicago Public Building Commission reported that it had plans to remediate the danger from the past leak, something that would guarantee safety of anyone who would use the school site. Any such plans would require the approval of the Illinois EPA.
Leaking gas and oil tanks present a danger of polluting water and streams, in addition to the risk of explosions or benzene contamination. Polluted waters and streams can then cause significant harm and potential injury to many more people than just in the immediate leak area. While the Chicago Department of Public Health inspects underground storage tanks and issues permits in the city, in conjunction with the Office of the State Fire Marshal, this doesn’t stop violations from occurring. In fact, the OSFM apparently issued nearly 7,500 violations related to noncompliant underground storage tanks in the Chicago metropolitan area (outside of the city’s limits) from 2003 to 2013.
These numbers only represent registered commercial underground storage tanks, however. There are no accurate statistics related to residential tanks that could be beneath the surface of Chicago and surrounding suburbs. Further, underground tanks containing heating oil have not been subject to registration requirements. One thing that makes this concerning is the fact that many were simply abandoned when people later converted to natural gas. The steel storage tanks are subject to corrosion, which means they are practically guaranteed to leak at some point in time.
Property owners/operators are responsible for cleanup of leaking storage tanks under the direction of the Illinois EPA. The law also requires property owners to inform any potential buyers of the existence of underground storage tanks before a potential sale becomes a reality. Underground storage tanks do pose a risk of leaking and other dangers. Leaking gas and oil tanks must be disclosed to potential buyers, and property owners should report this possibility to the EPA as well to protect themselves, others, and their property.
When property owners or companies fail in their duties to protect others from the dangers of underground storage tanks, others should not have to pay the price for their leaking gas and oil tanks. Under personal injury laws, injured individuals or surviving relatives of those who are fatally injured may be able to seek financial restitution in a civil court. Please contact my St. Louis personal injury law firm toll-free at 1-888-586-7041 to learn more about your rights and how you may best position your personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit for a chance of success.
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