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Nassau, EPA settle lawsuit over monitoring of county underground tanks

Peter Lopez, Region 2 administrator for the Environmental

Peter Lopez, Region 2 administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency. Credit: Barry Sloan

Nassau County and the federal Environmental Protection Agency have settled a lawsuit involving the county's failure to comply with federal underground storage tank requirements at 48 county facilities, court documents show.

The judgment requires the county to install equipment including a centralized monitoring system to detect leaks from the underground tanks at all the facilities and pay a fine of $427,500.

EPA regional administrator Peter D. Lopez said the agreement will help ensure the tanks will be "regulated to protect human health and the environment."

In a statement, Lopez said Nassau "has cooperated with EPA and is now taking action to protect the integrity of the aquifer that provides drinking water to the county’s residents."

Nassau County spokesman Michael Fricchione said Thursday there never were any leaks or contamination from the tanks.

The county Department of Public Works detected no leaks when it upgraded the tanks, and the soil around them did not test positive for contamination, Fricchione said.

The monitoring equipment has cost the county about $7 million over a period of several years, Fricchione said.

"Nassau County is pleased to close the book on this decade long litigation by making environmentally protective upgrades to underground tanks and implementing additional safety and security measures," Fricchione said.

The 2012 lawsuit and subsequent judgment were filed in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.

Before filing suit, the EPA had filed an administrative complaint alleging that the county repeatedly failed to comply with safety requirements at 33 facilities between 2008 and 2010.

The agency and the county settled those claims in a September 2012 agreement. But Nassau failed to complete the required work, which led to the court action, federal officials said.

Nassau County legislators voted unanimously for the new settlement in August.

"We will continue to do everything we can to preserve our natural environment and keep our residents safe," said Christopher Boyle, spokesman for the Legislature's Republican majority.

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