frequently asked questions about underground storage tanks

Underground Storage Tanks FAQ’s

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The rules and regulations for underground storage tanks in Portland are complex. If you are considering having one installed, there are regulations to follow and responsibilities to be aware of.

If you own property, you may already have one whether you know it or not. If you’re looking to buy property, there are some things to consider regarding underground storage tanks. Either way, the rules will apply to you, too.

Our underground storage tank FAQs will guide you by answering some of the most important questions about these units. We’ll cover underground storage tank options, and we’ll also go over the regulations and responsibilities involved. Read on to learn more. 

What Is an Underground Storage Tank System?

An underground storage tank (UST) system is a tank that has at least 10 percent of its volume underground. The term “system” includes pipes and fittings. Sometimes there are a series of tanks linked together.

The tanks are generally made of steel, fiberglass, concrete, or composite materials. 

Two Main Types of Underground Storage Tanks:

  • Petroleum USTs store gasoline, diesel fuel, heating oil, aviation fuel, and other petroleum products
  • Hazardous substance USTs are tanks that store chemicals such as solvents and pesticides

What Is the History of the Federal Underground Storage Tank Program?

Underground storage tanks, often made of bare steel, can corrode over time. Because of that, Congress became concerned about the potential for groundwater contamination.

In the early 1980s, they directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop a program to address UST risks. The EPA subsequently released a set of regulations. Periodically, the regulations are revised to accommodate shifts in environmental standards. 

In 2015, revisions were made to strengthen the requirements for leak detection and repair. They implemented new requirements for secondary containment of tanks and piping. Vapor recovery systems and overfill prevention devices were also added. 

All of the regulations apply to underground storage tanks in Portland.

Who Regulates Underground Storage Tank Systems?

USTs are regulated by several agencies.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates at the federal level. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) oversees the state of Oregon.

There may also be county or city regulations depending on where you live.

Why Are Underground Storage Tank Systems Regulated?

The government regulates UST systems because they can pose significant threats to public health and the environment if they are not properly managed.

Most of the fluids contained in underground storage tanks can be hazardous. They may pose risks to humans, wildlife, livestock, and the environment.

The regulations help to prevent and resolve problems like contamination.

Underground storage tanks, were unregulated until the 1980s. Any home built between 1900 and 1985 may have a UST that no one knows about. It’s important to have your property scanned for undocumented tanks. 

How Common Are Storage Tank Leaks?

The EPA maintains state-by-state data on underground storage tank leaks. They track registered tanks, reported leaks, and clean-up measures taken. 

The most common type of storage tank leak is a corrosion leak. Corrosion may be due to the contents inside slowly breaking down the steel. It can also happen from age deterioration.

Other types of leaks can occur. For example, leaks can occur due to improper installation, damage to the tank, or if the seals aren’t maintained.

Are Heating Oil Tanks Regulated?

Several kinds of petroleum classified as heating oils are used to heat homes. Heating oils are often stored in underground storage tanks, as well.

Most heating oil tanks are not currently regulated on a federal level. However, the EPA has proposed some new regulations. These new rules would include registration, regulated safety measures, and inspections.

In Oregon, the DEQ initiated a voluntary decommissioning program for heating oil tanks. Even though the tanks may be exempt, there are guidelines for the underground storage tank decommissioning process. 

What Are the Responsibilities of an Underground Storage Tank Owner or Operator?

In Oregon, every UST owner or operator is responsible for the operation and maintenance of their tank or system. There are several requirements.

Owners or operators must have their underground storage tanks registered with the correct agencies. They must be compliant with the regulations set forth by the EPA and DEQ. There are guidelines from other governing agencies, as well.

Requirements include ensuring that underground storage tanks are properly installed. Responsible maintenance can prevent leaks, spills, or overfills.

Tanks must have leak detection systems in place. There are also requirements for soil samples and routine testing. Records of the inspections and tests must be kept. 

Owners or operators are responsible for maintaining a current inventory of tank contents. They must also maintain financial liability standards. 

In the event of a leak, owners or operators are responsible for reporting it.

They’re also required to report about the corrective actions. These reports may need to be filed with multiple agencies.

Additionally, if there will be employees on-site, training is necessary. Everyone involved must follow proper operation and maintenance procedures.

What Are My Reporting Responsibilities as an Owner or Operator?

As the owner or operator of an underground storage tank in Portland, you are responsible for reporting:

  • When you have a new tank installed
  • If you find old unregistered tanks on your property
  • Any suspected leaks and all follow-up actions
  • If you switch contents to certain controlled substances
  • When you plan to decommission a tank
  • Any change of ownership

Other requirements may apply. You can contact Oregon’s DEQ if you have questions about reporting responsibilities. You can also reach out to our team at Alpha Environmental directly at (503) 292-5346. 

What Are the Requirements for Hazardous Substance Underground Storage Tanks in Portland?

Many substances classified as hazardous are kept in USTs. Storing hazardous substances in an underground storage tank in Portland calls for additional requirements. 

First, the UST must be constructed of materials that are compatible with the substance. 

The tank must also have a secondary containment system. The secondary containment will contain any leaks or spills that may occur at the tank itself.

Next, the UST will need a monitoring system. This monitors the space between the main tank and the secondary containment. It will alert the operators in case any leaks do occur.

Also, there must be spill, overfill, and corrosion protections. 

Who Can Answer Further Questions About Underground Storage Tanks in Portland?

Do you have questions about underground storage tanks in Portland that this guide didn’t cover? You’ll want to have answers from qualified experts. With over 21 years of experience, Alpha Environmental is happy to help!

Contact Alpha Environmental to have your questions answered or schedule a free estimate. 

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Lake Oswego, OR
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