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The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) updated underground storage tank (UST) rules (the regulation) are final and will be published soon in the Federal Register. You can access the regulation through EPA’s website where you will find:

  • Links to a pre-publication version of the signed regulation (472 pages), a regulatory impact analysis (167 pages) and a Response to Comments document (181 pages);
  • A summary-level comparison of the 1988 regulation to the final 2015 UST regulation;
  • A redline strikeout version showing the final 2015 regulation imbedded into the existing regulation;
  • Additional resources, including an updated edition of EPA’s popular Musts for USTs booklet; and
  • Once published, a link to the Federal Register version of the regulation.

The regulation adds periodic operation and maintenance requirements for UST systems; addresses UST systems deferred in the 1988 regulations; adds new release prevention and detection technologies; updates codes of practices; makes editorial corrections and technical amendments; adds secondary containment requirements for new and replaced tanks in Indian country; adds operator training requirements in Indian country; and updates state program approval (SPA) requirements to incorporate these changes.

It is important to keep in mind that many states (38) and territories (2) have SPA from EPA. In these cases, the state’s UST regulation is followed in lieu of the federal UST regulation. States (12) and territories (3) without state program approval must follow the new federal regulation. You can access a list of states and territories with/without state program approval here.

 

The regulation addresses 25 specific UST-related areas. We don’t have the space to cover all of them here. Furthermore, we have not compared the final UST regulations with those proposed in 2011.  And to keep this as simple as possible, we have not added EPA’s rationale as to why it did or didn’t include certain requirements in its regulation. You can read the 181-page Response to Comments document for that information. What follows are the changes to EPA’s regulations that we believe impact PEI members and their customers the most.

Implementation schedule. With few exceptions (USTs in Indian country), EPA aligns the implementation time frames in the regulation to begin either on the effective date (90 days after publication in the Federal Register) of the regulation or three years after the effective date of the regulation. The requirements implemented on the effective date of the regulation are those that either do not require significant education and outreach or apply to new installations, repairs or releases. EPA allows up to three years for owners and operators to implement the requirements that require significant outreach, equipment to be upgraded or installed (such as for previously deferred UST systems), or scheduling or testing.

Periodic walkthrough inspections. The regulation requires owners and operators to conduct walkthrough inspections as follows:

·         Every 30 days check spill prevention equipment for damage and remove liquid or debris; check for and remove obstructions in the fill pipe; check the fill cap to ensure it is securely on the fill pipe; and for double-walled spill buckets with interstitial monitoring, check for a leak in the interstitial area (exception: owners and operators of spill prevention equipment at UST systems receiving deliveries at intervals greater than 30 days may check that equipment prior to each delivery). Also check release detection equipment to ensure it is operating with no alarms or unusual operating conditions present and ensure release detection records are reviewed and current.

·         Annually check containment sumps for damage and leaks to the containment area or releases into the environment; remove liquid or debris in contained sumps; and for double-walled containment sumps with interstitial monitoring, check for a leak in the interstitial area. Also check hand-held release detection equipment, such as gauge sticks and bailers, for operability and serviceability.

The regulation allows owners and operators to conduct operation and maintenance walkthrough inspections according to a standard code of practice developed by a nationally recognized association or independent testing laboratory, or according to requirements developed by the implementing agency. The inspections must check equipment in a manner comparable to the walkthrough inspection requirements described above. EPA included PEI’s Recommended Practices for the Inspection and Maintenance of UST Systems (PEI/RP900) as a code of practice that may be used to meet the walkthrough inspection requirement. Owners and operators who use the code of practice option for meeting UST requirements must use the entire code of practice. For example, owners and operators would not meet the walkthrough inspection requirement if they chose to follow only some of the walkthrough inspection areas in the code of practice while ignoring others.

Other requirements concerning walkthrough requirements include:

  • To align implementation of all operation and maintenance requirements, the regulation requires owners and operators to begin conducting walkthrough inspections three years after the effective date of the final UST regulation.
  • EPA will not change the cathodic protection checks at the 60-day interval specified in the 1988 UST regulation.
  • Monitoring and observation wells do not have to be checked to ensure they are secure.
  • Owners and operators are required to maintain records of walkthrough inspections for one year. 

Spill containment. Owners and operators must have spill prevention equipment tested at least once every three years. The regulation includes vacuum, pressure and liquid testing as methods for testing spill prevention equipment. PEI’s Recommended Practices for the Testing and Verification of Spill, Overfill, Leak Detection and Secondary Containment Equipment at UST Facilities (PEI/RP1200) was found by EPA to be adequate for periodic testing of spill prevention equipment and has been added to EPA’s regulation. EPA does not require periodic secondary containment testing of double-walled spill containment equipment where the integrity of both walls is periodically checked via the walkthrough inspection (see walkthrough discussion). That means double-walled spill prevention equipment must be monitored at least every 30 days or before each delivery for USTs receiving infrequent deliveries. 

Overfill prevention equipment. Owners and operators must have overfill prevention devices inspected at least once every three years. Implementation is based on a single date and not phased in based on the age of the tank. Inspection protocols developed by nationally recognized associations or testing laboratories, manufacturer’s requirements or instructions, or requirements determined by the implementing agency to be as protective of human health and the environment must be followed. PEI’s Recommended Practices for the Testing and Verification of Spill, Overfill, Leak Detection and Secondary Containment Equipment (PEI/RP1200) has been reviewed by EPA, found adequate for the periodic inspection of overfill prevention equipment, and added to the regulation.

Secondary containment testing. The regulation requires periodic testing for both new and existing containment sumps used for interstitial monitoring. This testing includes the penetrations. Containment sumps used for reasons other than interstitial monitoring of piping do not have to meet the periodic testing requirement. In addition, as with spill prevention testing, EPA is not requiring periodic secondary containment testing of double-walled containment sumps where the integrity of both walls is periodically monitored. Periodically monitored means owners and operators must monitor the space between the two walls of the containment sump at a frequency consistent with, or more frequent than, the walkthrough inspection frequency. Implementation is based on a single date and not based on tank age. The UST regulation does NOT require periodic secondary containment testing of secondarily contained tanks and lines.

Release detection equipment. EPA provides three years to implement the operation and maintenance requirements for leak detection equipment. Groundwater and vapor monitoring as methods of leak detection are allowed with some restrictions. For owners and operators choosing groundwater or vapor monitoring as their method of release detection, EPA is requiring hand-held electronic equipment such as photoionization devices. Non-electronic hand-held devices, such as measuring sticks and groundwater bailers, are covered under the walkthrough requirements.

To clarify that EPA’s requirement for simulated testing of line leak detectors applies to electronic and mechanical line leak detectors, EPA changed §280.40(a)(3)(iii) of the 1988 regulation to include the term automatic. That action makes the requirement consistent with how EPA has historically referenced both electronic and mechanical devices that are described by the term automatic line leak detectors in § 280.44(a).

EPA allows PEI’s RP1200 to be used to meet the Agency’s testing requirements for leak detection equipment.      

Release detection for UST systems used with emergency power generators. EPA eliminated the deferral for release detection for UST systems storing fuel solely for use by emergency power generators. The regulation allows owners and operators flexibility to choose the most appropriate release detection methods for their systems, including line leak detectors that trigger an alarm only and do not necessarily shut down the pumps. The regulation requires that the alarm must be transmitted to a monitoring center where someone on site can hear or see the alarm and respond to a suspected or confirmed release. Owners of emergency generator tanks installed before the effective date of the regulation must begin meeting the release detection requirements within three years of the effective date. USTs storing fuel for emergency power generation installed after the effective date must meet the release detection requirements at installation.

Groundwater and vapor monitoring. EPA determined that vapor monitoring and groundwater monitoring are used by 5 percent of the UST owners to comply with the Agency’s release detection requirements. UST owners in Arkansas (29 percent), Louisiana (12 percent) and Mississippi (65 percent) rely on vapor monitoring, groundwater monitoring, or a combination more often than UST owners throughout the rest of the country. The widespread use of these release detection methods influenced EPA to continue to allow their use in meeting the regulation, provided owners and operators demonstrate proper installation and performance through site assessments.

Field-erected tanks. EPA removed the 1988 deferral of field-erected tanks (FETs) in UST systems from regulation. The regulation now provides that the current release detection methods in subpart D of the 1988 regulation are appropriate for FETs less than 50,000 gallons. For those tanks, EPA did not establish leak detection requirements beyond those listed for conventional UST systems. EPA also retained the option for owners and operators to demonstrate to the implementing agencies release detection methods as effective as those stated in the final UST regulation. Implementing agencies must approve options not specifically included in the UST regulation.

EPA provided three additional options in its regulation that provide flexibility for owners and operators (primarily the Department of Defense) of FETs greater than 50,000 to meet the release detection requirements.

Ball float valves (flow restrictors). EPA eliminated the use of flow restrictors in vent lines as an overfill protection option for new UST systems installations and when overfill equipment is replaced. Ball float valves may still be used on tanks installed on or before the effective date of the regulation as long as the ball float continues to operate effectively. As mentioned in the overfill prevention section, beginning three years after the implementation date, ball float valves must be tested for proper operation once every three years. If the ball float valve is not operating properly and cannot be repaired, the overfill device must be replaced with one of the other two types of overfill prevention (automatic shutoff devices or overfill alarms).

Internally lined tanks. The UST regulation requires the closure of internally lined tanks (where the lining is used to meet cathodic protection requirements) if the lining fails the periodic inspection and cannot be repaired according to a code of practice developed by a nationally recognized association or independent testing laboratory. In the preamble to the regulation, EPA clarifies that this requirement only applies to tanks internally lined to meet the corrosion protection requirement of § 280.21 and does not apply to tanks lined for other reasons, such as compatibility or secondary containment.

Compatibility requirements. EPA has always required that UST systems be made of or lined with materials compatible with the substance stored. This requirement has not changed. In addition, 30 days prior to switching to a regulated substance containing greater than 10 percent ethanol or 20 percent biodiesel, UST owners and operators must notify the implementing agency of the impending switch. Further, UST systems storing one of these blends must demonstrate compatibility through a listing by a nationally recognized independent testing laboratory or through equipment or component manufacturer approval.

In the absence of and as an alternative to demonstrating compatibility, implementing agencies may choose to accept other options for allowing the continued use of UST systems storing substances containing greater than 10 percent ethanol or 20 percent biodiesel. For example, in lieu of an affirmative compatibility determination, implementing agencies may allow secondarily contained UST systems using interstitial monitoring to store regulated substances containing greater than 10 percent ethanol or 20 percent biodiesel, because a release from the primary containment will be contained by the secondary and detected by the interstitial monitoring before a release reaches the environment.

Repair issues. Leaking UST systems can be repaired. Beginning on the effective date of the regulation:

  • Within 30 days after repairs to secondary containment areas of tanks, the secondary containment must be tested for tightness.
  • Within 30 days after repairing spill or overfill prevention equipment, the repaired equipment must be tested or inspected to ensure it is operating properly.
  • Within 30 days after repairs to secondary containment areas of piping used for interstitial monitoring and to containment sumps used for interstitial monitoring of piping, the secondary containment must be tested for tightness.
  • For USTs installed after December 22, 1988, when 50 percent or more of the piping connected to a single tank is removed and replaced, the entire piping run must be replaced with piping that has secondary containment and interstitial monitoring.

Records for each repair must be kept until the UST is permanently closed or undergoes a change in service. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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