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Information on Petroleum Bulk Storage Tanks

There are an estimated 680,000 underground storage tanks in the United States. Some 100,000 tanks, holding a total of nearly 3.5 billion gallons, are registered in New York State alone. Underground storage tanks are the number one source of groundwater contamination. Leaking underground storage tanks not only contaminate the ground immediately surrounding the tanks, they also threaten the groundwater supply that flows beneath the tanks, which many people rely upon for drinking water. A spill of one gallon of petroleum can render one million gallons of water undrinkable. Although not everyone uses groundwater as their drinking water source, the contamination of groundwater and seepage of petroleum fumes into residential basements exposes residents to potentially toxic fumes. Moreover, petroleum spills can travel with the groundwater to open bodies of water, potentially causing contamination in rivers, bays and lakes.

The New York State Legislature enacted Article 17, Title 10 of the Environmental Conservation Law, entitled "Control of the Bulk Storage of Petroleum." The Law applies both to Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) and Aboveground Storage Tanks (ASTs), or multiple tanks with a combined storage capacity of more than 1,100 gallons.

Under the regulations owners were required to register storage facilities with DEC by December 27, 1986. In addition facilities must be re-registered every five years and new facilities must be registered before being placed into service.

All facilities regulated under Article 17, Title 10 must meet certain handling and storage requirements established by DEC. Existing USTs and ASTs must observe rules for color coding of fill ports, shutoff valves, gauges and check valves. Aboveground tanks must be provided with secondary containment.

Operators of USTs must keep daily inventory records, reconcile and maintain records notify DEC and the tank owner within 48 hours of unexplained inventory losses. They must also test tanks and pipes every five years or monitor the interstitial space of double-walled equipment.

Operators of ASTs must conduct monthly visual inspections. Every 10 years they must clean out the tanks that are resting on grade, remove the sludge from the bottom, inspect for structural integrity and test for tightness.

Tanks that are temporarily out of service (30 days or more) must have product removed to the lowest draw off point and fill lines and gauge openings must be capped or plugged. Even if temporarily out of service inspection and registration must be kept current. Tanks that are going to be permanently out of service must be emptied of all liquid, sludge and vapors, then either removed or if left in place filled with solid inert material such as sand or concrete slurry. The DEC must receive 30 days notice prior to filling or removal of out of service.

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