Today, the Senate committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources unanimously passed my SB 843, which toughens the requirements on above-ground storage tanks at the Fairfax City “tank farm.”
To the uninitiated, the “tank farm” is a long-running environmental nightmare located on Pickett Road in Fairfax City. It has been there since the 1960′s. About twenty years ago, it was the home of an epic spill which impacted (and still impacts) the neighboring residential community.
In the past 3-4 years, the tank farm has been the subject of repeated other accidents, so much so that a “summit” was held by City and County leaders last October to try and address this problem.
Despite the good efforts of our Department of Environmental Quality, it was evident that state action was needed to protect the good residents of Fairfax City and Mantua which border the tank farm.
To cure the problem, Delegate Bulova and myself introduced companion bills — SB 843 and HB 2103 — which sought to do the following:
1. Give local governments input on “consent orders” governing spills;
2. Allocate penalties from spills towards local remediation efforts;
3. Upgrade the standards for the tanks (which pre-date 1992 Code requirements).
After weeks of negotiation, we ended up with #3. (It’s a long story, but basically points #1 and #2 were covered by existing state law)
The agreed version, which passed today, will require the “tank farm” owners to update all pre-1992 structure to conform with current design requirements, including requiring the use of “double-bottoms” to prevent leaks, which can infect our water supply.
The implementation of the change is ten years, which is very slow but matches the standard used by the EPA to upgrade either non-conforming tanks.
So at least there’s a sunset date to this ongoing challenge.