In 2015, the EPA amended and updated the federal regulations for monitoring, maintaining, and testing underground storage tanks (USTs). This was the first major update to the regulations since their introduction in 1988. The updated regulation officially took effect on 10/13/2018.
The EPA updated the federal regulations in part due to the wide variety of new fuels on the market — some of which require special safety and maintenance considerations — and the new technology that has emerged over the last few decades that makes fuel system monitoring more reliable and accurate.
The regulations have a few primary objectives, including:
- Provide a universal minimum standard that all UST operators must meet nationwide
- Improve the prevention and detection of UST spills and releases
- Protect against groundwater pollution
A number of regulatory provisions were added or amended in order to meet the above objectives, and many fuel system operators have questions about which changes specifically apply to them.
States Play a Key Role in UST Regulation
Under the new federal guidelines, states will play a key role in regulating UST systems. The guidelines set out by the EPA represent the legal minimum standard; states are free to set their own regulations as long as they meet or exceed these minimums. This is intended to allow individual states the leeway to create regulations that focus on their specific challenges, instead of imposing a blanket standard nationwide. The vast majority of states either have approved regulations in place or are in the process of receiving approval from the federal government.
Therefore, it is critical that you contact your state’s governing authority for information on the specific regulations in your area. In Texas, the regulatory authority is the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). For links to other states’ UST regulation programs, click here.
Key Changes to Federal Regulations
Despite the fact that specific regulations vary from state to state, certain changes to the law have the potential to affect all operators. These changes primarily fit into a few categories, detailed below.
Minimum Training Requirements
The 2005 Energy Policy Act laid out the training requirements for all UST operators. With the 2015 EPA regulation updates, those requirements have been amended.
Under federal regulations, all UST operators are categorized as Class A, B, or C operators based on their specific responsibilities in operating and monitoring the system, or in managing personnel who directly operate the system. Each classification has its own set of training requirements. More information about operator training, including definitions of the three operator classifications, can be found here.
For information on approved training programs, contact your state’s regulatory authority (for Texas operators, information can be found here).
New Containment and Leak Detection Regulations
The new federal regulations also up the requirements for physical containment and leak detection in UST systems. Specifically:
- Secondary containment and interstitial monitoring are now required when installing or replacing any UST piping
- Under Dispenser Containment (UDC) is required with all new dispenser systems
Finally, all new and existing UST systems are subject to more stringent testing requirements. Here are a few of the updated requirements (this should not be viewed as a comprehensive list):
- Testing of sumps and under-dispenser containment systems must be performed every three years if the system uses interstitial monitoring of the piping as its primary form of leak deterrence
- Spill-bucket testing required every three years, unless the UST system is outfitted with double-wall spill buckets where the interstitial space is tested regularly (NOTE: Some states already require spill-bucket testing every year — Texas is every three years)
- Compliance testing of repaired components — Whenever any component in the spill-protection, overfill-containment and secondary-containment areas of the UST system needs to be repaired, compliance testing of the repaired system must be completed within 30 days, regardless of whether or not an actual product release occurred
- Overfill-prevention equipment inspections will be required every three years, except in states where they are already required annually
The fines for non-compliance with the updated UST regulations are steep — up to $5,000 (or more in some cases) for each tank for each day of violation.
This makes it critical that businesses and organizations that operate a UST system: 1) understand which regulatory authority has jurisdiction over their area, and 2) have access to fuel system experts who can ensure that all regulations are being met continuously, UST systems are maintained properly, and any emergencies are handled appropriately to limit regulatory and punitive exposure.
Contact McCon Today
With over 25 years of experience in planning, building, maintaining, and servicing petroleum fuel systems of all kinds, McCon has the comprehensive knowledge to help you navigate the new UST regulations in the most efficient and cost-effective manner. Contact us today for more information on how we can help your business maintain compliance.