The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Leaking Underground Storage Tank Program works with responsible parties to reduce contamination of groundwater, a vital source of drinking water.
An open, or “unresolved” LUST site means that a release has occurred from a petroleum underground storage tank system that requires corrective action. The greatest potential hazard from LUST sites is that the petroleum or other hazard substance(s) in leaking tanks can seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater. A leaking tank can also present other health and environmental risks, including potential for fire and explosion.
DEQ is currently in the process of notifying all responsible parties of unresolved LUST sites.
Responsible parties are required to investigate and clean up releases from underground storage tanks to protect public health and the environment. In 2020, DEQ began notifying responsible parties of unresolved LUST sites and the actions they are required to take. Many of these sites have been unresolved for decades.
This effort will help clean up petroleum and hazardous substance releases from underground tanks at a faster rate. It will also help meet EPA’s 2019 goal for DEQ to close, or resolve more LUST sites.
Fact sheet: Frequently Asked Questions on Leaking Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Notices
The notification and cost recovery agreements are sent to current property owners. If there are other potentially responsible parties DEQ should be aware of, please contact your regional office.
DEQ may designate a LUST site as high priority if there is significant potential for adverse impacts to public health and the environment. When DEQ designates a site as high priority, the requirement to cleanup the site is considered urgent. DEQ will contact the responsible party of these sites directly in addition to sending notifications.
A responsible party is usually the current owner or operator of the facility or property. However, previous owners or operators, or anyone who causes, contributes to or worsens the contamination, may be considered a responsible party as well.
Oregon law (ORS 465.330) requires DEQ to recover all reasonable costs associated with the investigation and cleanup of contaminated sites from the responsible party(s). A cost recovery agreement contains details on DEQ’s project oversight actions, as well as invoicing and payment requirements.
Once a cost recovery agreement is signed, the site is placed on a regional waitlist until DEQ can assign a project manager. Consult with a DEQ regional office about potential wait times. After a DEQ project manager is assigned, DEQ will provide a monthly cost recovery bill for project management costs. Please see the Leaking Underground Storage Tank Cleanup Information Packet for more information regarding DEQ's cost recovery.
The cost of DEQ’s oversight depends on many factors, such as the degree and extent of contamination and the amount of DEQ oversight required. DEQ’s oversight costs an average of $200 per hour. Submitting complete and accurate work plans and reports to DEQ from experienced environmental consultants may reduce DEQ’s costs. After a project manager is assigned, responsible parties can request an estimate for DEQ’s oversight costs.
DEQ notifies the responsible party upon receipt of a report of a release from an underground storage tank. The notification includes information and instructions on how to begin the cleanup process. It is then the responsible party's obligation to complete the cleanup or to notify any potential buyers of contamination during the sale of the property. All open LUST sites must be investigated and cleaned up.
DEQ will continue to oversee all open LUST sites until issuing a No Further Action decision. DEQ is also establishing an annual reminder process for responsible parties to ensure LUST sites are closed.
Once DEQ oversight begins, the time to cleanup and close the site varies based on factors encountered during the cleanup process such as the degree and extent of contamination. DEQ must review and approve the final cleanup report before issuing a No Further Action decision. Please contact your DEQ project manager for an estimated timeline.
Responsible parties are required to cleanup any leak from an underground storage tank in accordance with OAR 340-122-0217.
The letter from DEQ explains what action is required. If DEQ designated your site as high priority, signing a cost recovery agreement and initiating cleanup is required to avoid enforcement action. DEQ will provide advanced notice if urgent action is required.
If you have any questions or concerns when you receive the letter, please contact your DEQ regional office.