Reducing Environmental Risk

Hazards associated with underground storage tanks

On Behalf of | Dec 19, 2023 | ENVIRONMENTAL LAW - Agriculture

Underground storage tanks are essential to many industrial and commercial operations, commonly used for storing fuels and other hazardous substances. However, the risk of leaks from these tanks presents a severe environmental and legal challenge. 

A leak can contaminate soil and groundwater, threatening public health and the environment. Understanding the implications of such leaks is crucial for responsible UST management and compliance with environmental regulations.

Signs of a leak

Detecting a leak in an underground storage tank can be challenging due to its hidden nature. The presence of petroleum vapors or sheens on nearby water surfaces can signal that the tank’s contents are seeping into the environment.

An unexplained decrease in fuel inventory is another common indicator. This is often identified through inventory reconciliation, where inconsistencies in fuel levels might point toward a possible leak. 

Monitoring systems, which are mandated by regulations, can provide early warnings. These systems may include automatic tank gauging, vapor monitoring, groundwater monitoring or secondary containment with interstitial monitoring.

Immediate action is required

Once a leak is detected or suspected, immediate action is critical to mitigate environmental damage and limit liability. The first step is reporting the leak to the appropriate environmental regulatory agency, as state and federal laws require. 

Stopping the leak is crucial. This might involve removing the tank’s remaining contents and conducting temporary repairs. An environmental assessment, including testing soil and groundwater to determine the contamination extent, is also necessary. 

Working with qualified environmental professionals ensures that assessment and response actions comply with regulatory standards. Understanding these aspects of UST leaks is vital for managing the risks and responsibilities associated with underground storage tanks. This knowledge is crucial for compliance with environmental regulations and protecting public health and the environment.



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