underground storage fuel tanks

Underground Storage Tanks...Everything You Need to Know

Underground storage tanks exist in both the commercial and residential worlds and have a myriad of purposes. From convenient store gas tanks and medical center backup diesel storage to home heating oil, they are found throughout the United States. Whether you are a homeowner or a facility manager, you should understand the basics about your tank. This information proves invaluable in times of crisis or when it comes to routine maintenance.  Read on for all the details regarding underground storage tanks (UST).

What is an underground storage tank?

As defined by the EPA, a UST is a tank and any connected piping that has at least 10 percent of its combined volume underground. Federal EPA regulation only applies to those systems containing petroleum or other particular hazardous substances like methane or solvents. Your state's definition of UST's may vary from federal regulations. Therefore, you must look into all mandates before making repairs or replacements.

Why be concerned about USTs?

Up until the mid-1980's must, UST's were constructed of bare steel. This steel is susceptible to corrosion over time, which allows contents to leak into the environment. Should petroleum or other hazardous substances seep into the soil, it could and contaminate groundwater. This is the source of drinking water for nearly half of all Americans. Furthermore,  a leaking UST presents other potential health and environmental risks such as the potential for explosions.

What are the federal requirements for USTs?

Starting in 1988, the EPA issued UST regulations, divided into three main categories:

  • Technical Requirements -- These are designed to reduce the occurrence of releases from USTs, leak and spill detection, and securing proper cleanup.
  • Financial Responsibility Requirements -- Set up to ensure an owner/operator has resources to pay for proper clean up in the event of a leak or a spill. There can be high costs associated with cleaning up releases and compensating third-parties.
  • State Program Approval Objectives  -- Some provisions allow state EPA approved UST programs to operate instead of the federal program. Consequently, state regulations may be more stringent than those at the Federal level.

Do all tanks have to meet federal EPA regulations?

Interestingly, not all UST are required to meet federal requirements.

  • Farm and residential tanks that are of 1,100 gallons or less holding motor fuel used for non-commercial purposes.
  • Tanks holding heating oil used on the premises where it is stored.
  • Tanks that are on or above the floor of underground areas like a basement or tunnel.
  • Septic tanks and systems that collect storm water and wastewater.
  • Flow-through process tanks.
  • Any tanks of 110 gallons capacity or less.
  • Emergency spill and overflow tanks.

What are your responsibilities as an owner or operator?

As the owner or operator of a UST, you have specific legal and ethical responsibilities. Any UST that is regulated by the federal government must:

  • Meet all leak detection requirements
  • Meet overfill, spill, and corrosion protection requirements
  • Be registered with the appropriate regulatory authorities

As an owner or operator, you must also:

  • Meet financial responsibility requirements
  • Perform site checks and take corrective action in response to spills, leaks, and overfills
  • Follow regulatory guidelines during the installation of new tanks and closure of any existing tanks
  • Have routine checks performed for corrosion and leak detection systems
  • Maintain records

Also, be aware that as government regulations change and update, so will your responsibilities.

Trust the Professionals

Underground storage tank regulation may be confusing, but there is help. Trust the pros. Trust Clean Fuels Associates. We are industry leaders. Our team of experienced engineers and technicians can answer all your questions.  We can perform any maintenance to ensure your UST complies with all state and federal regulations. Contact us today for an evaluation.