Maybe you were digging on your property and accidentally stumbled across a cylindrical metal object. Or perhaps you’re an entrepreneur and considering getting into the convenience store and/or gas station business. Either way, if you’ve found an underground storage tank you probably aren’t sure where to start. This article is for you, and will hopefully help you determine the next steps to take.
Have you discovered an underground storage tank (UST) on your property? The presence of that tank is not just a simple inconvenience; it also poses an environmental concern. Most older tanks are made of bare steel, which is very likely to corrode as time goes by, leaking hazardous substances into the environment. These USTs are often found while construction is ongoing, though they can also be “found” during environmental due diligence assessments during property transactions.
Prior to the 1980’s, USTs were not well regulated by state or federal governments; many facilities weren’t even required to notify the government if they wanted to install a tank. This lack of regulation often meant that leaks from tanks would go unnoticed, or if the property was sold, the new owners not even knowing a tank existed there (or whether it had ever been emptied). Today, state and federal regulations are in place to ensure that USTs are registered when they are installed, and that they are regularly maintained to decrease the potential safety & environmental risks posed by a leaking tank.
If you accidentally find a UST on your property, you will likely want to close it permanently. “Closure” means either a) having the tank cleaned to remove any residual materials (as these are considered hazardous waste) and then backfilled with an inert material like gravel or concrete, or b) digging up & removing the tanks. As a part of this process, the government will also require soil and/or groundwater samples to be collected to determine if the tank leaked petroleum products into the surrounding environment. If it has, additional soil & groundwater investigation and cleanup may be required. A state regulator will often want to be on site during a tank closure; therefore you are required to provide at least 30 days notice to them prior to beginning any work.
In order to close the tank and remain in compliance with state & federal regulations, you will need to hire an environmental consulting firm who can empty the tank and clean it thoroughly whilst following strict safety procedures to avoid potential hazards. Every year, innocent people are injured or killed while attempting to close or remove underground storage tanks. Don’t make this grave mistake. Be sure to hire trained professionals who have experience cleaning and removing USTs.
Owning and Operating UST facilities
If you have thought about purchasing or opening a retail fueling business, you should be familiar with what regulations must be followed to keep the tanks in compliance. Every state has slightly different requirements for regulating USTs, so you should be familiar with the requirements in your state. Links for several of the Midwest’s state UST regulations are included at the end of this article. As a UST owner, you will have many responsibilities, such as:
- Your tanks must be properly registered with the state (including notifying them when the property changes hands or if you decide to later close or replace any of the USTs)
- You are responsible for recognizing and following state UST regulations, including state or federally-mandated upgrades to the tank system or piping.
- You are responsible for completing UST Operator Training, if required by your state.
- You must protect against corrosion.
- You will need to monitor your tank monthly.
- You are expected to detect leaks quickly, before contamination spreads.
- You need to keep records of leaks, maintenance, inspections, repairs, etc.
- You are responsible for reporting and cleaning up any releases.
- You must pay for the cleanup of any releases. Tank owners are required to demonstrate financial responsibility, proving that they will be able to fund a cleanup, if required. Many states have insurance programs or trust funds for UST owners that can assist with paying for cleanups, providing the tanks are in compliance and all appropriate regulations are followed.
Do you need assistance with closure or cleanup of an underground storage tank on your property? Contact Environmental Works, a full-service environmental consulting and contracting firm. With our many years of experience managing major environmental projects, you can feel comfortable trusting us with any of your UST needs. Or do you need assistance with managing tank compliance at your facility? Our Virtual Task Manager (VTM) software is perfect for making sure you never miss a deadline or inspection and can even track employee training. To learn more about our services, please give us a call at 417-890-9500 or contact us online.