States and territories primarily implement the UST program- 38 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have approved state programs the other 12 states implement the federal program. Many states already have some of these new requirements in place, but not all. Virginia began a program to register, regulate and cleanup USTs and their contamination in 1989 in compliance with the 1988 EPA regulations. The Virginia program has spent more than $67 million to cleanup contamination from USTs and had protective requirements to reduce the future contamination, but does not require secondary containment on all tanks and piping systems.
The EPA’s action will strengthen existing UST standards nationwide and help ensure a consistent level of higher standards on all USTs in the U.S. The new regulations will tighten the EPA’s original 1988 UST regulations by requiring secondary containment on tanks and piping systems, and focusing on properly operating and maintaining existing UST systems.
The revised requirements include:
- requiring secondary containment requirements for new and replaced tanks and piping;
- adding operator training requirements;
- adding periodic operation and maintenance requirements for UST systems;
- eliminating deferrals for emergency generator tanks, airport hydrant systems, and field-constructed tanks;
- requiring new release prevention technologies and leak detection alarms.
The trust fund was created to:
- Enforce cleanups by recalcitrant parties
- Pay for cleanups at sites where the owner or operator is unknown, unwilling, or unable to respond, or which require emergency action because drinking water supplies are threatened.
Over the years the states have done a good job of addressing the historic backlog of UST problems. With the help of the various Trust Funds more than 1.8 million USTs have been properly closed, 525,095 fuel releases have been discovered of those 452,847 have been cleaned up and completed. However, it is time to tighten the UST regulations and try and cleanup the 72,248 cleanups have not yet been finished.
Over time all tanks and piping systems will grow old and fail. It is necessary to have a secondary containment system to capture the fuel when it leaks out of the tank or pipe, in addition to an alarm system to notify operators of the leak before the secondary system fails. Inspections and maintenance are necessary to ensure that systems are working properly and in good condition and workers are not just silencing alarms and ignoring problems.
Now that EPA has tightened the UST regulations, they need to think about regulations for above ground tanks (ASTs). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not regulate most aboveground fuel storage tanks and there are no national standards for secondary containment and spill prevention. In addition, there are no regulations that limit the maximum life that a tank can continue to be used. This endangers our rivers, watershed and groundwater.