Storage tank owners have had 10 years to comply with federal law, according to an EPA official, and those who do not comply will be fined.
That includes the government, according to Carl Axel Soderberg, the EPA's director of Caribbean environmental protection, according to the V.I. Independent.
There are 400 registered underground storage tanks in the Virgin Islands, said Jim Casey, the local EPA representative. Of the 400 tanks, fewer than 50 percent are in compliance with federal standards, Casey said.
Before the Dec. 22 deadline, tanks must be emptied and remain unused. Thereafter, owners of non-complying tanks have one year to move the tank, sample the area for leaks and complete any cleanup required.
Underground storage tanks are the leading cause of contaminated groundwater, Soderberg said. Contamination takes about 30 years to remedy and costs a lot of money.
"On such a small island with limited water resources, we cannot compromise the little we have," said Grethelyn Piper, executive director of the St. Thomas-St. John Environmental Association.
The contamination of the Tutu Wells aquifer should serve as an example of what can happen and encourage safety practices and compliance techniques, she said.