The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently located and removed two underground storage tanks in McKinley County, New Mexico, at the site of the former Smith Lake Trading Post, which might have been buried since the 1950s or 1960s.
The tank removal is part of a collaborative effort between the EPA and the Navajo Nation Environmental Protection Agency (Navajo Nation EPA) to identify and remove tanks from abandoned gas stations throughout the reservation, as these tanks can contaminate the Navajo Nation’s groundwater.
“EPA and the Navajo Nation have achieved the cleanup of over a hundred abandoned underground storage tanks, and less than 60 sites remain,” EPA Pacific Southwest Region Land Division Director Jeff Scott said. “Since 2000, the agency has spent over $10 million on this collaborative effort.”
The tanks are believed to have been removed from service in 1981, and the trading post itself burned down in 1995. When they were excavated, the EPA noted that the tanks were rusted and had numerous holes, meaning that any petroleum remaining in the tanks when they were decommissioned could have leaked into the soil, subsurface water and groundwater, and potentially could have made it all the way to Smith Lake. Soil tests showed contamination within federal and tribal standards.