Iowa’s 6,200 leaking underground storage tanks

Leaking fuel and oil from underground storage tanks threatens drinking water wells, lakes, streams, and basements all over the state. Leaks can spread a little or a lot and they can contain a variety of chemicals. This map shows all sites listed with a leak by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources as of May 2008.

What’s leaking?
Most underground storage tanks leak gasoline, and the main chemicals of concern are benzene, toluene, and ethylbenzene. The Iowa Department of Natural Resources has established levels of these chemicals “where it is known that there is no risk to the health to all individuals.”

Adverse health effects are only seen if exposures to these chemicals are significant.

Benzene: Long-term exposure to high enough levels has adverse effects on the blood and bone marrow. Long term exposure to benzene in the air can cause luekemia, which is a concern if benzene could move from the soil or groundwater into a home.

Toluene: Exposure to high levels can effect the nervous system and kidneys. Exposure to high levels in the air can cause light-headness and dizzyness.

Ethylbenzene: Exposure to high levels in the air can cause eye and throat irritation, light-headedness and dizzyness. These is a potential for damage to the kidneys from exposure to high levels.

Source: Stuart C. Schmitz, Environmental Toxicologist, Iowa Department of Public Health