State officials have begun to remove old underground gas tanks from a former filling station in Slatington.

Subcontractor Environmental Restoration on Tuesday began work to remove three 6,000-gallon gas tanks and a 1,000-gallon kerosene tank at the former Hilltop Texaco at 208 N. Walnut Street.

The property is owned by Ed Ziegler, 77, of 102 Chestnut Street, who last month was ordered by District Judge Rod Beck to clean up the upper portion of his property within 30 days or face fines.

That gives Ziegler until March 19 to clean up the northern property he owns off State Route 873, or face a $1,000 fine. All told, Ziegler faces 28 citations for the property, all of which are related to property clean up.

Efforts to reach Ziegler for comment in time for today's publication were unsuccessful.

Contacted this morning, George Hartenstein, DEP Environmental Program manager, told the TIMES NEWS the project is being funded by the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund.

"The project that we're doing is being funded by the LUST Trust Fund," Hartenstein said. "That money is being supplied to the DEP under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act."

Hartenstein said the LUST Trust Fund provides federal stimulus cash the state received to remove leaking underground storage tanks.

Hartenstein said $50,483 has been budgeted for the Hilltop Texaco site.

Contacted this morning, Mark Carmon, DEP spokesman, told the TIMES NEWS DEP received $6.1 million from the Environmental Protection Agency that will fund 71 projects statewide.

Of those, Carmon said 22 are in the area, several of which are in Monroe County, one in Summit Hill, and a second property in Slatington that may belong to Ziegler.

"We're targeting sites where the property owner does not have the financial ability to do the work that's necessary," Carmon said. "We have been attempting to get him [Ziegler] to do this work for several years."

Carmon said the DEP is "obligated to consider cost-recovery depending on a case-by-case basis."

"This is a case where we can hopefully eliminate any environmental issues," he said. "We will consider each case individually for cost-recovery purposes."

Carmon said the contractor will look at the tank itself, and the area that was excavated, and if there's any local contamination, deal with that.

"If we see any major problems in any of these sites, we have to go back to see if we can make any modifications to the original contract, or if this would fall under that stimulus criteria," he said.

In December, Ziegler was ordered by the State Department of Environmental Protection to remove gas tanks from his property.

The property has been identified by DEP as an old abandoned gas station. Ziegler said he "inherited" the former Hilltop Texaco in the mid-1980s, when it served as a gas station/ car wash.

In November, Beck levied 48 charges against Ziegler for the southern property he owns on the east side of N. Walnut Street.

At that time, Ziegler was told he had until the start of this year to clean up his properties or face fines.

Beck later granted Ziegler an additional 45 days to clean up his southern properties, which Ziegler has since complied with.