If you recently purchased property in New Jersey, you are fortunate to own land in one of the most beautiful states in the country. Perhaps the existing house on the property is just what you dreamed of, or you intended to build your own design. Then you discovered the contamination on your land.
You are not the only landowner in the state or country who is dealing with contamination of your soil or groundwater. Like many, you may discover that your problems trace back to a leaking underground storage tank on a neighboring property. This type of environmental disaster is becoming more common as old storage tanks deteriorate underground. You certainly want to know your options.
How did this happen?
Some tanks buried underground held gasoline for fueling stations from as far back as the end of World War II. While scientific advancements have shown those in the petroleum business how best to store such highly volatile and dangerous products, for decades, tanks went into the ground with little protection from the elements that caused rust and corrosion to damage the integrity of the tanks.
Further complicating the matter is the lack of inventory control over the contents of tanks from the 50s and 60s. If the tanks leaking on your neighbor's property have been underground for 50 years or longer, it may be impossible to tell how much gasoline or other contaminants escaped into the soil or groundwater.
What is the danger?
When you spill water on the ground, it soaks in and becomes absorbed into the layers of soil. It is not the same with gasoline. Some of the hazards of living near leaking underground tanks include the following:
- Gasoline floats on the water table below the surface.
- Gasoline components easily take vapor form, posing a risk of fire and explosions in sewer lines.
- Benzene, the most hazardous component of gasoline, creates a high risk of cancer if you drink or bathe in contaminated water.
- Methyl tertiary butyl ether, once added to gasoline to reduce air pollution in vehicle emissions, is also a known carcinogen.
- Drinking water in your community may be toxic for years, even decades, while authorities work to clean up the mess.
Whether the tank is stored under your own property or on a neighbor's land, skilled and licensed agencies must remove it to prevent further environmental damage. You may have legal options in the face of this devastating destruction. Seeking advice from an attorney who is well familiar with New Jersey's environmental laws is a wise first step.