EHS & Waste Management

Underground Storage Tanks and Hazardous Substances

By December 17, 2020 No Comments

Why be concerned about Underground Storage Tanks and Hazardous Substances?

An underground storage tank system (UST) is a tank and any underground piping connected to the tank that has at least 10 percent of its combined volume underground. The federal UST regulations apply only to UST systems storing either petroleum or certain hazardous substances.

When the UST program began in the United States, there were over 2 Million tanks that were regulated, that number has fallen over time as many of the Underground Storage Tanks and Hazardous Substances have been closed down as they did not meet regulations.

Underground Storage Tanks and Hazardous Substances owners include companies who sell gasoline to the public and also organizations who use tanks solely for their own needs, including the government. Today the EPA estimates that there are less than 4,000 tanks that hold hazardous substances covered by the UST regulations.

What are the issues with Underground Storage Tanks and Hazardous Substances?

The greatest potential hazard from a leaking Underground Storage Tank and Hazardous Substances is that the petroleum or other hazardous substance can leak and then seep into the soil and contaminate groundwater. Groundwater is the source of drinking water for nearly 50% of the American population. A leaking UST can present many other health, safety and environmental risks, including the potential for fire and explosion.

There are some UST’s that do not need to apply by the EPA regulations, they include:

  • Tanks of 110 gallons or less capacity
  • Tanks storing heating oil used on the premises where it is stored
  • Septic tanks and systems for collecting storm water and wastewater
  • Tanks on or above the floor of underground areas, such as basements or tunnels
  • Farm and residential tanks of 1,100 gallons or less capacity holding motor fuel used for non-commercial purposes


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