Underground Storage Tanks. An underground storage tank, or UST, refers to one or a combination of tanks plus its connected underground piping whose 10 percent or more of its total volume is situated underground. It is used for storing regulated substances, including petroleum. As of 2017, the total underground storage tanks that store petroleum and other hazardous substances across the United States are about 558,000.
Why USTs Are a Concern. One potential risk of underground storage tanks is the possibility of releasing their contents into the soil as a result of leakage. When this happens, the soil and underground water become contaminated, putting the health of almost half of the American population that depends on underground water in danger. Other risks include the likelihood fire outbreak that could lead to the loss of lives and property. The causes of leakage could be corrosion and poor installation. Lack of proper maintenance program can also be the reason for leakage.
Measures to Address UST Concerns. In response to the concerns related to the USTs, Congress enacted various regulations to ensure that the tanks are used in a manner that safeguards the environment and human life. According to the Federal UST regulations, there should be compliance to industry codes and standards to ensure proper construction, installation, design, and maintenance of UST system. For instance, the Federal UST regulations demand that all the UST tanks be constructed and installed in a manner that protects them from potential corrosion.
The EPA, under the authority of the Congress, has put in place operating requirements and standards that must be complied with when designing and installing the USTs. The requirements and standards also cover leak detection, corrective actions, and tank closure. These requirements are crucial because they ensure that the UST operators in the United States put in place system management measures in advance to prevent the risks associated with UST system. EPA recognizes the need for updating the industry codes and standards for gradual improvement of the UST system management. In fact, the agency does not restrict the UST operators to particular industry codes; rather, it advises tem to apply the most current codes that exist.
Implementation of the UST Requirements. EPA delegates the responsibility of implementing the UST program to the state and local governments. This is due to the large number and diversity of the UST operators across the United Sates. As a result, states and local governments may enact UST rules that are stricter than those of the Federal government. It is advisable to liaise with your state UST program for information about the UST requirements in your state.
UST Training. The federal and state law requires all the operators of UST systems to undergo Underground Storage Tank Training Program, to ensure they operate USTs in a manner that complies with regulatory standards. As a result, facilities with UST are required to submit the names and authorization numbers of their operators to the Department of Environmental Conservation, or DEC, for training.
The training can be done online and lasts for one year. It involves passing an exam administered by DEC, which is essential in demonstrating that the operators have the competence needed to operate the UST system. The operators need to meet the requirements of the NYS regulations, which apply to Major Oil Storage Facilities, Chemical Bulk Storage, and Petroleum Bulk Storage. The UST operators are classified as follows:
Class A operators: These are persons with the responsibility to operate and maintain UST systems.
Class B operators: Are individuals responsible for implementation of UST requirements on a day-to-day basis.
Class C operators: The employed staff that addresses emerging issues such as release and spillage from the USTs.
Although all the classes must undergo training, passing the DEC exam is not a requirement for Class C operators. Assessment following the training is enough for the class C.
In a nutshell, USTs can be harmful to the community if they are designed, installed, and used in a manner that does not conform to the regulatory standards. To avoid this possible harm, the operators of the UST system must undergo training to acquire the competence needed to operate the system in a safe way.