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A Quick Refresher on Underground Storage Tanks

June 7, 2016

What is an underground storage tank?

By EPA definition, an underground storage tank (UST) is “a tank and any underground piping connected to the tank that has at least 10 percent of its combined volume underground.” When it comes to the regulation of USTs, federal EPA regulations only apply to systems containing petroleum or other certain hazardous substances, such as methane and solvents.

Tanks exempt from EPA regulation are as follows:

  • Emergency spill and overview tanks
  • Tanks of 110 gallons or less in capacity
  • Flow-through process tanks
  • Septic tanks and systems collecting storm water or wastewater
  • Farm and residential tanks of 1,100 gallons or less in capacity which hold motor fuel used for noncommercial purposes
  • Tanks for storing heating oil that is to be used at the location at which it’s stored
  • Tanks on or above the floor of underground areas (e.g. basements or tunnels)

Your state’s definition of USTs and, in turn, regulations may differ from federal ones, so it’s important you check on that prior to any decision-making.

What dangers do underground storage tanks pose?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the greatest danger USTs pose to the environment and, subsequently, human health is through leakage. When these tanks leak, they can seep into soil and ground water. The latter has been estimated to supply 50 percent of the nation’s drinking water. Additionally, leaky USTs that contain petroleum have a heightened risk for fires and explosions. Obviously these are dangers that should be taken very seriously and prove that ensuring storage tanks are in good shape and installed properly is vital.

How are underground storage tanks regulated?

Since the 1980s, Subtitle I of the Solid Waste Disposal Act—which regulates USTs—has been amended to help focus more on proper inspections, training, education on containment, spill prevention, and fiscal responsibility. In 2009, Congress allocated $200 million from the Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) trust to the EPA to clean up leaking USTs across the nation.

In 2015, the EPA strengthened the previous update—which occurred in 1988—through a series of revisions.

The emphasis of these revisions was focused on properly operating and maintaining UST equipment in hopes that they will help prevent and detect UST releases, which are one of the leading sources of ground water contamination. Additionally, these revisions change portions of 40 CFR Part 280 which helps establish federal requirements that are similar to some key portions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Other new additions include operation and maintenance requirements and updates to state program approval (SPA) requirements in 40 CFR Part 281.

In addition to federal regulations, you should make sure to check any state or local regulations as they may have more stringent requirements than the federal ones.

For a full rundown of all the 2015 revisions, visit the EPA’s website here.

What responsibilities do you have as an owner or operator?

As the owner or operator of an UST, there are certain responsibilities you have.

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

All owners and operators 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

In addition to these requirements, you can find more information here. Also, be sure to note that there will be additional responsibilities coming in the future.

How do you choose the right company for the job?

When it comes to something as sensitive as environmental remediation or underground storage tank services, you want to ensure you’re choosing the right company for the job. How can you accomplish that? The answer is simple: find the characteristics you value most.

What separates Hazardous Waste Experts from the competition?

Our team has over 150 years of combined experience in the environmental services, hazardous waste disposal, and sustainability fields. In addition to our ability to offer expertise and get to you no matter where in the United States you are, our biggest pride is taking care of the customer. We’ll get you the best price possible and, unlike some companies, we’ll never sneak in hidden fees.

And our process is simple.

When you contact our team, you’ll talk to an agent who will guide you through a short process in which you’ll be asked for a few personal details and some information regarding your project. We then pass this information along to one of our environmental experts in your region who will diligently review it and contact you with the best price quote possible. This is a no obligation process and you’re free to walk away if, for some reason, you don’t like what you hear.

If you’d like to inquire about UST services, or just obtain more information, we’d be happy to assist. Call us today at 800-936-2311 and visit our request a price quote page by clicking here.

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.