Thursday, December 4, 2014

Why are there No Regulations to Control Spills at Gas Stations?

Old gasoline pumps, Norway
Old gasoline pumps, Norway (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Infiltration and Evaporation of Small Hydrocarbon Spills at Gas Stations (Abstract,Markus Hilpert , Patrick N. Breysse, Journal of Contaminant Hydrology, Sep. 19, 2014) 


Today we review research into the potential health threat posed by accidental spills that occur when individuals fill up their vehicles at gas stations which themselves are becoming much larger by an order of magnitude. Estimates are that each gas station has 1,500 litres of spills each year which evaporates into the air or makes its way and pollutes the groundwater and drains which empty into rivers which supply municipal water supplies. Regulations generally do not cover these spills which result in “non-negligible human exposure to toxic and carcinogenic gasoline compounds.” 

Key Quotes:   

"Gas station owners have worked very hard to prevent gasoline from leaking out of underground storage tanks…But our research shows we should also be paying attention to the small spills that routinely occur when you refill your vehicle's tank."   

“researchers estimate, roughly 1,500 liters of gasoline are spilled at a typical gas station each decade” 

"When gasoline spills onto concrete, the droplet will eventually disappear from the surface. If no stain is left behind, there has been a belief that no gasoline infiltrated the pavement, and all of it evaporated… this assumption is incorrect. Our experiments suggest that even the smallest gasoline spills can have a lasting impact."   

“Our study suggests that, over the lifespan of a gas station, concrete pads underneath gas dispensing stations accumulate significant amounts of gasoline, which could eventually break through into underlying soil and groundwater”   

 "Chronic gasoline spills could well become significant public health issues since the gas station industry is currently trending away from small-scale service stations that typically dispense around 100,000 gallons per month to high-volume retailers that dispense more than 10 times this amount."  

 “Regulations and guidelines typically do not address subsurface and surface contamination due to chronic small gasoline spills, even though these spills could result in non-negligible human exposure to toxic and carcinogenic gasoline compounds.”  

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