September 4, 2006

Alberta allocates $50 million to clean up contaminated underground storage tank sites

The Alberta government has approved $50 million for a remediation program to help municipalities and owners of small retail gas stations clean up contamination from underground petroleum storage tanks. To qualify for funding from the new program, prospective sites must have a tank installed before amendments to the Alberta Fire Code came into effect on September 1, 1992. Small retail gas station operations are defined as those consisting of up to five retail fuel sites.

"The new tank site remediation program continues the work of a previous program, to help eligible municipalities and owners of small retail gas stations identify and take necessary action to address contamination at underground fuel tank sites," Municipal Affairs Minister Rob Renner explained. "The priority is to help complete the remediation of eligible sites from the previous program," he added.

The first program, launched in 2000, committed $60 million to help remediate the sites of 930 applicants, including 66 municipalities. The Alberta Fire Code requires all underground fuel tanks to be upgraded to specified standards, while Alberta's Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act requires owners of contaminated properties to clean them up to established environmental standards.

Participants from the first program whose sites were found to be heavily contaminated, and whose remediation costs have exceeded the initial base grant of $110,000, may qualify for up to an additional $50,000 per site to help complete remediation. In addition, site owners who paid more than the original grant funding limit to complete remediation may be reimbursed up to the same additional amount. This will address an estimated 300 tank sites in the province. Participants from the first program who may be eligible for additional funding under the new program will be notified directly by mail.

Applications will also be available for new participants to the program. This includes municipalities and owners of small retail gas stations that meet the eligibility criteria of the previous program. This will address an estimated 300 new tank sites.

Like its predecessor, the new program is not open to large retailers, as these owners are usually in a better financial position to fund remediation of their own sites. Also ineligible for the program are sites that have been out of service for more than two years and do not pose a significant environmental risk, as well as non-retail businesses such as trucking operations, bulk fuel plants, and municipally-owned and operated refuelling depots.

It is estimated there will still be about 600 inactive small retail sites remaining that may require remediation. The $50 million funding represents an estimation of industry capacity, and further program funding will be requested in the future as additional sites are identified.

Application forms will be available September 15, and new site applications will be processed in the order they are received. Program information is available on the Municipal Affairs Web site, www.municipalaffairs.gov.ab.ca, or by calling 1-866-833-3300.

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