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Civil Engineering September 1997 FORUM, Modern Day Environmental Enigma: Walking a Fine Line?

Recent changes in the way California and Texas regard soil and groundwater petroleum hydrocarbon contamination are causes for some concern. Both states have commissioned studies reporting that groundwater contamination rarely extends beyond approximately 300 ft from the initial source, resulting in low risk. (The studies are “California Leaking Underground Fuel Tank Historical Case Analyses,” by the Lawrence Livermore National acceptors such as oxygen, sulfate, nitrate and carbon dioxide. The Texas report refers to this process as “self-remediation.” The California report is very controversial owing to media exposure of partial funding by a major oil company. It is no secret to those of us who have worked in the field that industry-not consulting firms or regulatory agencies-has access to the best technical resources. The major oil companies were primarily responsible for the initiation of site-specific, risk-based corrective action procedures that are currently being implemented. This was a step in the right direction-but the latest studies seem to have gone too far.