Hundreds of Central Florida gas stations are facing an end of the year deadline: upgrade storage tanks or face fines and possibly be forced to close.
About 1,250 tanks in Central Florida-900 underground and 350 above-ground-still remain out of compliance, News 13 a central Florida news station reported.
Many of the gas stations are independently owned and having difficulty coming up with the fee for the upgrade cost which can run about $250,000. For those that mange to come up with the funds, the investment could take them years to recover from. And some who want to comply are having a hard time finding storage tanks at the last minute-the wait is reportedly about six to eight weeks.
Some, such as Maurice Noukjam who has been operating a Citgo in central Florida for 40 years, is still deciding if it is worth staying in the businesses amid the upgrade requirement. “A lot of independent people are going to be hurt by this-a lot of small business people, because the economy is bad,” he told News 13. “The bank’s not going to loan you money. Where are you going to get that?”
The law, however is nothing new. Florida’s legislature has given the gas stations more than 20 years to comply, having passed the law requiring secondary containment in 1984. The law was designed to protect the state’s groundwater, which makes up about 92% of drinking water.
Station owners who decide to stay open without the proper upgrade face a $10,000 daily penalty, but if the stations close, reduced competition could be bad for consumers if it leads to higher gas prices. Depending on the number of pumps, stations can have anywhere from two to about six tanks.
An estimated 10% of gas stations statewide could close. In the 25 years station owners have had to comply, there have been 28,000 fuel weeks, the Department of Environmental Protection told News 13.