UNDERGROUND STORAGE TANKS: A Guide
Underground storage tanks (USTs) are storage tanks where at least 10% of their capacity, including its internal and external piping, is underground. USTs commonly store petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel and motor oil and are most often found at current or historic gas stations. Other common places USTs can be found include: schools, manufacturing facilities, airports, and even homes for heating oil. The United States alone has about 546,000 active USTs – according to a 2019 report from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – at over 197,000 different locations, but it is unknown how many inactive USTs are present. Because of the historic presence of USTs at so many places, performing your environmental due diligence at a site before purchase or major construction is greatly advised.
What are the environmental concerns?
While fire safety is the most immediate concern related to USTs, the most significant environmental hazard is leaking product to the environment. Leaks typically occur below ground from tank, piping, or below dispensers. If a leak occurs, the product could impact the surrounding soil and groundwater. The exposure pathways and risks to humans and the environment include:
- Contact with soil or groundwater that has been contaminated
- Drinking or contact with contaminated groundwater migrating to a drinking water well or surface water body
- Vapor intrusion migrating from the soil and groundwater into a structure
Prevention is the key
USTs installed after the Energy Policy Act of 2005 have specific leak prevention and detection requirements, including the tanks and piping being double-walled. Newer systems, when in compliance, notify owners of releases quickly. Since the compliance rules have been in place, releases appear to be less frequent and typically are not as large as historic releases. USTs installed before 1988, and not upgraded by 1998, still pose the biggest threat to humans and the environment. Keeping on top of compliance with your USTs will help prevent releases or quickly discover them.
How to know if you need remediation
It is best to do your due diligence prior to purchasing or working on your land as you’d like the potential contamination to be discovered as quick as possible and with as little as possible contamination. As soil and groundwater contamination cannot be seen with the bare eye, you’ll need a state-licensed tank tester to evaluate the potential for contamination. If contamination has been identified, remediation will begin under the direction of a regulatory agency, such as Leaaf Environmental.
How we can help:
Leaaf offers the following services to help you better minimize your environmental risk related to USTs:
- Environmental Due Diligence – We can perform Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESAs) to determine if there were potential USTs on your site, and if found, we can conduct a Phase II ESA to test the soil/water to determine if a release has occurred.
- Regulatory Compliance Review and Assistance – We can review your records and current state of compliance with the regulations. We do not perform installations or repairs to UST systems.
- Underground Storage Tank Closure – When it is time to close or remove the USTs at your site, we have licensed personnel to remove USTs in Louisiana and Mississippi.
- Corrective Action Plans and Remediation – We can plan and implement the remedial options needed to address the contamination at your site from previous UST releases.
- Trust Fund Reimbursement – We are registered in Louisiana to help with releases at active gasoline stations and can assist with reimbursement from the state to cover these costs.
For additional information on our UST Division, visit our website: https://leaaf.com/services/underground-storage-tanks-remediation/