County-owned fuel tanks too old? County Commissioner calling for costly change, saying ‘it’s an environmental hazard’

Tank expert says, ‘It doesn’t raise an eyebrow’

Underground fuel tank concerns
Underground fuel tank concerns

HOUSTON – Harris County has several above and below-ground petroleum tanks that are too old, according to a recent county report that identified nearly 40 storage tanks over 30 years old.

Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia says he wants the “archaic” tanks to be replaced or removed. The tanks operate similar to a gas station and help keep the county’s fleet fueled. The commissioner believes the older tanks pose a danger.

“It is something that is concerning because these things, now based on their life, could spring a leak at any given time creating danger to my staff and to the community,” Garcia said. “It’s an environmental hazard and that is the way we should be looking at it.”

The Auditor’s Office presented the results of a nearly $340,000 report on the fuel tanks on April 6. It was produced by an outside consultant according to the county and cites a 2011 Yale University report stating, “Most Underground Storage Tanks (UST) have a life expectancy of 30 years.”

KPRC 2 Investigates spoke with tank experts who said the life expectancy, in reality, is a number attributed to most manufacturers’ warranties. Frank Grebas, a tank expert with Protanic, the nation’s oldest underground storage testing company, said tanks have a lifespan that can last decades if they are properly maintained.

“It doesn’t raise an eyebrow for me, ”Grebas said when presented with the number of tanks over the age of 30. “I wouldn’t be amazed to hear that there are tanks 30 years old (or more) at a site.”

Garcia acknowledges there have been no significant environmental accidents or leaks involving these tanks, but he still has concerns.

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