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Jan 2, 2010 1:06 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Laws force upgrades at numerous East End gas stations

Jan 2, 2010 1:06 AM

Gas stations across the East End are scrambling to install new underground tanks that are required by Suffolk County sanitary codes before the deadline to do so expires.

More than 200 gas stations have yet to install double-walled fiberglass tanks, which were originally required to be in place by January 1, 2010. That deadline has been extended to May 1, 2010, to allow the county’s remaining gas stations to complete the upgrades.

The Suffolk County Legislature adopted the sanitary code requirement in 1989. At the time, the county required gas stations to use single-walled steel tanks, which are more susceptible to leaks.

“Folks had 20 years to comply with it,” Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said.

More than

1,000 gas stations have already done the work to come into compliance. According to James Meyers, Suffolk County’s principal public health engineer, of the 200 remaining, about 100 have not yet filed for the permits needed to install the new tanks. He said stations without permits face a $1,000 fine in January in addition to daily fines of $1,000 after May 1.

It can cost a gas station between $300,000 to $400,000 to replace one tank, Mr. Meyers said.

“Some [stations] might be waiting to close up shop, some might be waiting to see what happens,” Mr. Meyers said. “It is an expensive proposition. Most people are taking it very seriously.”

Double-walled tanks provide added protection against leaks, Mr. Meyers said. The tank consists of an inner tank surrounded by an outer wall. Space separating the inner tank from the outer wall is designed to contain leaks. In the event of a leak, an alarm system with lights and bells is triggered by a buoy at the base of the tank, he said.

Pipes connecting the tank to the surface—often trouble spots for leaks—must also be double-walled, Mr. Meyers said.

“You have a double layer of protection,” Mr. Meyers said. “Leaks at gas stations are unfortunately not very uncommon. Usually it’s not the tank itself, it’s the pipes ... they can cause quite extensive problems.”

Kathryn Odessa, executive director of the Long Island Gasoline Retailers Association, said she expects most of LIGRA’s 300 member gas stations to make the upgrade, but acknowledged that some stations cannot afford the new tanks.

“If they are not upgrading they will get fined, they will get shut down,” Ms. Odessa said. “Some people have been shutting down because they just cannot afford to stay in business.”

She said LIGRA supports the county’s regulations for double-walled tanks, but said there should be financial assistance from the government to make the upgrades.

“If it’s for an environmental good, we’re behind it,” Ms. Odessa said. “I think there should be more assistance from the county and state.”

David Hawke, owner of Hess in Water Mill, recently opened after completing the upgrades, which began on October 26. “We took quite a bit of [money] out. The tanks and the pumps probably cost about half a million dollars,” Mr. Hawke said.

Because of the costs of the upgrades and tough economy, Mr. Hawke said he is closing an eight-pump station on Route 58 in Riverhead that he built in 1981.

“It just doesn’t make sense to make the investment,” Mr. Hawke said. “I’m taking the tanks out and I’m going to sell the property. You just can’t sell gasoline and cigarettes anymore and make money.

“I think you’ll see a lot of stations close. It’s a tremendous amount of money. The further east, the more rural you get, the harder it gets.”

Ali Yuzbasioglu, owner of Empire gas station in East Hampton and three others on the East End, said it cost him $450,000 apiece to replace three tanks at his East Hampton station in 2006. He said he is still waiting for permits to do work at the other stations. He paid for the upgrades with bank loans.

“It is a lot of money,” Mr. Yuzbasioglu said. “I have four more stations to change the tanks. I haven’t gotten the permits yet.”

Shahzad Ahmed, a manager of 7-Eleven on County Road 111 in Manorville, said work to install three new double-walled tanks there will be completed by the end of the month. Though it is costing the business about $1 million to install the tanks, no additional gas pumps will be installed for motorists, he said.

“That’s what I don’t like: you pay $1 million and you have the same number of pumps,” Mr. Ahmed said.

Suffolk County Health Department spokeswoman Grace McGovern said about 1,000 gas stations are expected to be in compliance with the regulations by January 1. Sanitary permits can take as long as nine months to be issued.

“We expect that upward of 100 might be fined on January 1 for non-compliance, where the tank is still in the ground and no plans for replacement have been made,” Ms. McGovern said.

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Do these gas station owners get any financial help fom their main supplier,such as Gulf or Shell ?
By Mets fan (1501), Southampton on Dec 23, 09 8:33 AM
I doubt it
By Coxie (14), southampton on Dec 23, 09 10:57 AM
Anyone out there know the cost of replacing a 1,000 gal. residential underground fuel oil tank?
By Whaler Harpoon (6), East Hampton on Dec 24, 09 2:15 PM
Not sure if you are aware of this but East Hampton offers a rebate program which will pay $500 - $700 of the removal costs. The application is on the toen web site.
By TheCove (1), Southampton on Jan 2, 10 9:44 AM
It costs about $2,500 to abandon a 1,000 gallon oil tank and put a new 275 gallon tank in basemenet or above ground. Assuming you dont have a leak in the tank to begin with.
By ReelT (8), Hampton Bays on Dec 24, 09 8:24 PM
Dave Hawke has done a great job. He should be given an award because he has upgraded the community environmentally, aesthetically, and commercially for years to come. I will always get mu truck filled up there. Thanks Strong Oil!
By kelbas (30), Southampton on Dec 29, 09 3:37 PM
after being employed by strong oil and the Hawke family i have to say thay are and will always be improving there stations and there community to benifit there costumers so thank you dave and nancy and thank you watermill and hampton bays stations for years of great servce keep it up
By mgia631 (5), hampton bays on Dec 30, 09 3:12 PM
The only thing is Strongs gas stations are so over priced with their gas I would rather travel to riverhead or to Valero on route 51 to get the better prices
By RichVH (1), Southampton on Jan 4, 10 4:33 PM