Waste Programs Divison: Underground Storage Tanks: Route 66 Initiative
Route 66 Logo

U.S. Route 66 was the first highway connecting Chicago to Los Angeles. By 1938, the entire highway was continuously paved, and was in operation until 1970, when new four-lane highways bypassed most of the old segments. Of course, a lot of gas stations were needed to fuel vehicles along the way, and many of the fueling systems leaked into the soil and groundwater.

Along the Arizona section of Route 66 there are about 340 sites with reported leaking underground storage tanks or piping. When the initiative began in 2004, almost 30 percent (approx. 100 sites) remained open, mostly in areas where clayey soils (e.g. Holbrook and Winslow) have made the cleanup of contaminants in soil and groundwater difficult. By 2010, 16 percent (55 sites) were still open, requiring further investigation or cleanup.

The Goal

The goal of the Route 66 initiative has been to remove abandoned (orphan) underground storage tanks (USTs), identify and clean up releases, and assist UST owners, operators, and volunteers with the identification, and cleanup of releases. The success of the program will depend on effective communication and cooperation among ADEQ case managers, tank owners, operators, and cleanup volunteers, their consultants, local officials, and the people in communities along Route 66.

Cities and towns along Route 66 are part of the initiative. Early in the initiative, the agency focused on Winslow, Holbrook and Joseph City because of the large number of UST releases that have affected groundwater in the area. The initiative began in June of 2004 with the initial public meetings in Holbrook and Winslow, followed by meetings with individual property owners and their consultants to help expedite investigation and cleanup activities.

In the past few years, the initiative expanded to include all open sites along the Arizona section of Route 66, and public meetings have been held in Holbrook, Winslow, Kingman and Seligman.

Benefits of the initiative

  • Reduction in risk to human health and the environment
  • Revitalization of cities and towns
  • Increased property values

The Strategic Plan

A strategic plan was developed to help the agency achieve specific milestones for the initiative, including activities and timelines that are critical to its success.

Exploring Cleanup and Redevelopment Opportunities

  • Route 66 East (Winslow - Holbrook Area)
    On Jan. 26 and 27, 2006 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and ADEQ sponsored a Route 66 kick-off meeting. Sessions were held at the La Posada Hotel in Winslow and the Navajo County Fairgrounds in Holbrook. Nearly 70 people attended, representing land owners, businesses, local governments, historical societies, chambers of commerce and other local organizations and funding other governmental agencies. The valuable contributions of these many organizations resulted in a successful conference, where Route 66 redevelopment opportunities were identified. Information from these meetings may be found at U.S. EPA: The Route 66 Partnership: Exploring Cleanup and Redevelopment Opportunities .

  • Route 66 West (Kingman Area)
    On April 15, 2008, ADEQ, the City of Kingman, Mohave County, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) brought together about 50 government officials, builders, property owners and consultants at the Powerhouse Visitor Center in Kingman, Arizona to share ideas on how to transform orphan tank sites and other "Brownfields" properties from community blight to community benefit along Route 66. In addition to the ADEQ UST and Brownfields programs, presentations were also made by representatives of the USEPA, the ADEQ asbestos program, the National Park Service, the Arizona Office of Tourism and the Arizona Main Street program. Resources available for cleanup and redevelopment were the focus of the presentations, followed by breakout roundtable sessions in the afternoon when participants discussed technical and funding issues.

Municipal Tank Closure Program (MTCP)

Another element of the initiative was the Municipal Tank Closure Program (MTCP) which is no longer supported. The MTCP assisted small communities with the removal of abandoned underground storage tanks. The program was set up to help take such tanks out of the ground and clean up contamination at no cost to the property owner or the community.

Petroleum Brownfields

Federal and State programs may be available to provide communities with assistance to assess and clean up sites, and/or assist with revitalization.

One of these is the Brownfields Program. A brownfield is an abandoned or under-used property with an active redevelopment potential that is complicated by either real or perceived environmental contamination.

Although the MTCP applies only to smaller communities and unincorporated areas of the counties, Brownfields grant opportunities may be available to address old abandoned UST sites that meet Brownfields eligibility requirements.

The Arizona Brownfields State Response Grant Programs is focused primarily on rural cities and towns in Arizona and is a possible grant funding source for above ground storage tanks, heating oil and petroleum UST sites. For example, in 2006, the city of Flagstaff received from U.S. EPA a $200,000 Brownfields Community-wide Petroleum Assessment grant to identify and address sites along the Route 66 corridor.

Whether in Flagstaff or in other communities along Route 66, creating an inventory of sites with possible or known petroleum contamination through the Phase I and II assessments process would enhance the redevelopment potential of these sites, making for a more vibrant and attractive community.

For more information about these programs, please visit Brownfields Assistance.


  Soil excavation at Navajo Inn, Holbrook (January 2005) photo
Soil excavation at Navajo Inn, Holbrook (01/05)

MTCP tank removal at The Gate Store photo
MTCP tank removal at The Gate Store

Powerhouse Visitor Center, Kingman
Powerhouse Visitor Center, Kingman

La Posada Hotel, Winslow
La Posada Hotel, Winslow

Navajo County Fairgrounds, Holbrook
Navajo County Fairgrounds, Holbrook