EPA Numbers on Active USTs That Should Not Be Ignored
When you own a gas station, underground storage tanks (USTs) are inevitably going to be a part of your life. USTs are necessary for the efficient operation of your gas station, but state laws and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also heavily regulate them. Because USTs store gasoline underground, they provide a significant risk of leaking and contaminating the ground around the gas station, including nearby water sources. Such contamination is highly dangerous and potentially disastrous to the surrounding community, so abiding by EPA regulations is necessary to ensure the safety of everyone involved.
The EPA recently released its report on USTs for the fiscal year of 2018 (October 2017 – September 2018). You can view this information on their website, but I have compiled a list of the most important numbers in this article for you.
State Laws vs. EPA Regulations
The first thing you need to understand has less to do with numbers and more to do with geography. While everyone in the US is required to abide by EPA regulations, you also need to comply with state and local environmental protection laws in your area – whichever set of regulations is the most stringent is the one that you need to meet. The EPA found 11 states whose laws regarding USTs are stricter than the EPA’s own regulations: in alphabetical order, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Nebraska, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
In the 2018 fiscal year, in fact, the EPA only conducted 381 inspections out of 86,864 on-site inspections. Inspectors from states, territories, and third parties conducted the rest. So when getting ready for an inspection, remember that it may not be the EPA coming to make sure you have everything up to code. This is especially important to remember if your local laws are more stringent than the EPA’s regulations.
The number of “releases” refers to the number of USTs that had some sort of leak – whether internal, external, or interstitial. The EPA requires all USTs to be equipped with sensors that can detect any of these leaks and alert the owner. In the 2018 fiscal year, there were 8,128 cleanups because of leaks, even though there were only 5,654 confirmed releases in the same time period. This is because there is a backlog of releases from previous years that have yet to be cleaned up. As for the 2018 report, the U.S. still had a backlog of 65,000 leaks waiting to be cleaned up.
Although the EPA did manage to get to some of the backlogged cleanups this year, a combination of reduced funding and other factors have made it more difficult for them to be able to get to all the cleanups they need to take care of.
The Bottom Line
Please update your tanks to suit the regulations. This will prevent leaks that could potentially endanger your gas station and the environment.
Examples provided for informational purposes only.