Underground Storage Tank (UST) Systems
Regulatory Compliance and Management

October 1998 - TI#18604
Covered UST Systems
Performance Standards for Existing UST Systems
UST Management Strategies
Reporting & Recordkeeping Requirements
Compliance with State Programs
Air Force Policy and Guidance
For More Information
Document References

In December 1988, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued regulations to protect public health and the environment from the effects of leaking underground storage tank (UST) systems. These regulations required UST systems installed after December 1988 to have leak, spill, overfill, and corrosion protection (refer to Title 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 280, "Technical Standards and Corrective Action Requirements for Owners and Operators of Underground Storage Tanks"). Additional requirements addressed notification, installation, corrective action, financial responsibility, and recordkeeping. UST systems installed prior to December 1988 were given until 22 December 1998 (ten years) to comply (upgrade) with the spill, overfill, and corrosion protection requirements.

In May 1997, the EPA announced that the 22 December 1998 deadline would not be extended. Failure of UST system owners and operators to upgrade existing systems by the deadline can have significant legal and financial consequences. The EPA can assess civil penalties of $11,000 per tank for each day of noncompliance. The EPA also has the authority to close down a facility that has not complied.

Over the past 10 years, the EPA and the United States Air Force (USAF) have developed guidance and programs to enable installations to comply with the UST regulations by the December 1998 deadline. This fact sheet presents an overview of the requirements UST system owners and operators must meet by the December 1998 deadline and discusses pertinent EPA and USAF policies. In addition, the fact sheet presents Best Management Practices (BMPs) for the management of UST systems and explains options available to USAF personnel concerned about compliance with UST regulations.

Covered UST Systems
An UST system is any underground storage tank (or set of interconnected tanks), including any associated piping, that has at least 10% of its volume underground. Title 40 CFR Part 280 applies to UST systems storing either petroleum, petroleum products, or a hazardous substance as defined by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

Federal UST regulations do not apply to: 1) certain USTs with a capacity of less than 1,110 gallons; 2) tanks storing heating oil to be used on the premises; 3) septic tanks; 4) certain pipeline facilities; 5) surface impoundments; 6) storm or wastewater collection systems; 7) flow-through process tanks; 8) Certain liquid traps; and 9) Certain USTs in underground areas. Some States have more stringent UST regulations that may include these types of tanks (see Compliance with State Programs, below).

Performance Standards for Existing UST Systems
Prior to the 22 December 1998 deadline, all existing UST systems must comply with one of the following requirements:
  • Performance Standards for New UST Systems, Title 40 CFR Part 280.20;
  • Tank Upgrading Requirements, Title 40 CFR Part 280.21(b) through (d); or
  • Out-of-Service UST Systems and Closure, Title 40 CFR Part 280, Subpart G, including applicable requirements for corrective action under Subpart F.
Performance Standards for New UST Systems
Since December 1988, owners and operators have been responsible for ensuring all newly installed UST systems meet construction, corrosion protection, release detection, and spill/overfill prevention requirements specified in Title 40 CFR Part 280. All new tanks, piping, and related structures/equipment must also be properly installed in accordance with a code of practice developed by a nationally recognized association or independent testing laboratory and in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. These requirements for new systems will continue after the December 1998 deadline.

(Readers may wish to also refer to a recent feature article about USTs in CrossTalk Edition 42)

New tanks and/or piping may be constructed of cathodically protected steel, fiberglass-reinforced plastic (FRP), or FRP-clad steel. USTs containing hazardous substances are required to have a secondary containment system (e.g., double-walled tank) and a monitoring system to detect leaks between the tank and the secondary containment. Furthermore, new UST systems must be certified, tested, or inspected to demonstrate proper installation. System certification must be included with EPA Form "Notification for Underground Storage Tanks" (found in Appendix I of Title 40 CFR Part 280) and submitted to the appropriate regulatory authority. Additional detailed information about construction, corrosion protection, release detection, and spill and overfill requirements specific to new UST systems is contained in Title 40 CFR Part 280.20 - "Performance Standards for New UST Systems."

Upgrading Requirements
In addition to bringing existing UST systems into compliance with the requirements for new systems, a second compliance alternative for existing UST systems is to meet the requirements of Title 40 CFR Part 280.21(b) through (d), Tank Upgrading Requirements, summarized below:

Lining/Cathodic Protection
Existing steel tanks can be upgraded by either adding an internal liner, cathodic protection, or a combination of the two. Upgrading with only an internal liner or only cathodic protection will subject owners and operators to an additional level of periodic testing, monitoring, and inspections to verify the integrity of the UST system. Using lining and cathodic protection in combination will relieve owners and operators of these additional monitoring requirements. The lining and cathodic protection of upgraded tanks must meet specific requirements as specified in Title 40 CFR Parts 280.20 and 280.21.

Spill and Overfill Control
To prevent spilling and overfilling associated with the transfer of product to an UST system, existing UST systems must meet the same spill and overfill prevention requirements mandated for new UST systems contained in Title 40 CFR Part 280.20(c). When upgrading existing systems, owners and operators must, at a minimum, install a device (e.g., a catch basin) that prevents the release of product to the environment when the transfer hose is detached from the fill pipe. In addition, overfill prevention equipment such as automatic shut-off devices, overfill alarms, or ball float valves must be installed that will shut off the flow of product into the tank and alert operators to potential overfill situations.

Metal piping that routinely contains a regulated substance and is in contact with the ground must also be cathodically protected against corrosion in a manner that meets the same requirements as the tank. The upgraded piping must meet requirements as specified in Title 40 CFR Part 280.20(b).

Closure and Corrective Action Requirements
The third compliance alternative available to owners and operators of existing UST systems is to close the system, either temporarily or permanently, in accordance with standards set forth in Title 40 CFR Part 280 Subpart G - Out-of-Service UST Systems and Closure. The closure of an UST system may additionally subject owners and operators to the requirements of Subpart F - Release Response and Corrective Action for UST Systems Containing Petroleum or Hazardous Substances.

Temporary Closure
Temporary closure requirements for UST systems typically include maintaining (or employing) release detection systems and maintaining cathodic protection. An UST system left out of service (i.e., temporarily closed) for more than 12 months must be permanently closed or brought up to regulatory standards and placed back in service. If more time is needed to decide what to do about an UST, it may be possible to apply for a temporary closure extension. The governing agency may grant an extension beyond the initial 12 months if an assessment that determines whether contamination is present at the site is provided.

Permanent Closure
Owners and operators of UST systems slated for permanent closure or change-in-service must perform the following:

  • Notify the state or local UST regulatory/implementing agency of their intentions;
  • Empty and clean the tank by removing all liquids and accumulated sludges;
  • Remove the tank from the ground or fill it with an inert substance if removal is not practical;
  • Conduct an Assessment of the Excavation Zone (Site Assessment) by measuring for the presence of an UST release (via screening method or laboratory analysis, as appropriate) where contamination is most likely to be present. Corrective action must be started in accordance with Subpart F if a release from the UST is determined to have occurred; and
  • Maintain closure records for at least 3 years.
Notification of the intent to permanently close an UST must be made to the regulatory agency at least 30 days prior to the closure.

Corrective Action
Should a release of petroleum product from an UST system be discovered at any time, including during system replacement, upgrading, or closure, owners and operators may be required to perform a significant amount of initial response, abatement, site characterization, free product removal, investigation, corrective action and public participation activities under Title 40 CFR Part 280 Subpart F. An Air Force activity encountering an UST release situation is advised to contact installation environmental management personnel.

Owners and operators of new or existing UST systems, regardless of the compliance status with the upgrade requirements discussed above, must comply with Title 40 CFR Part 280 Subpart C - General Operating Requirements. These requirements include good housekeeping and record keeping activities, as well as activities that ensure the structural and chemical integrity of the system.

UST Management Strategies
There are few options available to owners and operators whose existing UST systems are in danger of non-compliance with Title 40 CFR Part 280 by the 22 December 1998 deadline. The only options available are temporary or permanent closure, or a combination. Temporary or permanent closure of USTs must be accomplished by the 22 December 1998 deadline date and must be carried out in accordance with applicable EPA guidelines, or with the requirements of the appropriate State or local regulating agency.

The temporary closure option may allow owners and operators extra time to make sound decisions about how to manage the UST system in the future. Future options may include permanent closure or upgrading. In either case, if a release has occurred from the UST system, corrective actions must be undertaken.

Reporting and Record-keeping Requirements
In accordance with notification requirements contained in Title 40 CFR Part 280.22, owners and operators of UST systems put into service after 8 May 1986 must submit a notification form to the appropriate regulatory authority within 30 days of bringing the tank into use. This form, found in Appendix I of Part 280, also requires tank owners and operators to certify that they meet the financial responsibility requirements under Subpart H. Federal and State governments that own USTs, however, are not required to demonstrate financial responsibility.

Owners and operators of UST systems are required to cooperate fully with inspections, monitoring, and testing conducted by the regulatory authority in accordance with the provisions of Title 40 CFR Part 280.34. Additionally, owners and operators must also submit the following information:

  • Certification of installation for new UST systems;
  • Reports of all releases including suspected releases, spills and overfills, and confirmed releases;
  • Corrective actions planned or taken including initial abatement measures, initial site characterization, free product removal, investigation of soil and groundwater cleanup, and a corrective action plan;
  • A notification before permanent closure or change-in-service.
Owners and operators of USTs must maintain records that can be provided to authorities during an inspection to show that the facility complies with all applicable regulations, including:
  • Records of leak detection system performance and maintenance, such as results of the most recent tightness test, the previous year's monitoring results, and calibration of on-site leak detection equipment;
  • Records of required inspections, tests, and operation of the tank's corrosion protection system;
  • Documentation of UST system upgrades or repairs;
  • Records of compliance with release detection requirements; and
  • Results of the Site Assessment conducted at permanent closure for at least 3 years after closure.
  • These records must be kept either at the UST site or at a readily available alternative site, and must be provided for inspection to the regulatory authority upon request.
In the case of permanent closure, owners and operators have the option of mailing closure records to the implementing agency if they cannot be kept at the site or an alternative site.
Compliance with State Programs
Subtitle I of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) allows States to operate UST programs that have been approved by EPA. Approval by EPA of a State UST program means that the requirements in the State's laws and regulations will apply in lieu of Federal requirements. Such State programs must be "no less stringent" than Federal requirements, and in some cases may be more stringent. EPA approval of State-operated UST programs ensures that a single set of requirements (the State's) will be enforced in that State, thus eliminating the duplication and confusion that can result from having separate State and Federal requirements. As of August 1998, the following 25 States, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, operate EPA-approved UST programs: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

In all other States, UST owners and operators will be subject to the provisions of the Federal UST program, in addition to any other State UST regulations and programs. In these States, UST owners and operators must comply with Federal and State requirements and may have dual reporting duties.

The State of California is one example where the State regulations, which have not yet been approved by EPA, are more stringent than the Federal regulations. Title 40 CFR Part 280.12, Definitions, exempts all tanks containing heating oil for on-premise consumptive use. However, California regulations, contained in Title 23 California Code of Regulations (CCR), Chapter 16, only exempt heating oil tanks from regulation if they are located on a farm or a residence and have a capacity of 1,100 gallons or less. Therefore, any heating oil tanks in the State of California which are not located on a farm or residence are not exempt from regulation.

Installations should coordinate with Air Force legal counsel concerning compliance in States with non-EPA-approved UST programs.

Links to individual State UST programs can be found on the EPA's UST WWW site at http://www.epa.gov/swerust1/.

Air Force Policy and Guidance
Air Force Instruction (AFI) 32-7044, "Storage Tank Compliance," 25 April 1994, identifies compliance requirements for underground storage tank systems that store petroleum substances. This document closely parallels Title 40 CFR Part 280 and should be consulted in conjunction with Title 40 CFR Part 280 before installing, upgrading, or closing any USTs. It is important to note that Paragraph 2.1.2 of the AFI requires the elimination of USTs, where possible, to reduce long-term operating and management costs and future liabilities resulting from leaks. USTs can be eliminated by locating them in vaults, constructing above ground storage tanks, or revising operating practices to eliminate the need for USTs.

AFI 32-1054, "Corrosion Control," 11 May 1994, provides guidance for maintenance of dependable and long-lived structures and reduction of costs due to corrosion. It ensures compliance with applicable EPA, Department of Transportation, OSHA, and other regulations and guidance.

For More Information.
Headquarters Air Force Civil Engineer Support Agency, Technical Support Directorate (HQ AFCESA/CES), offers services related to fueling systems. Visit AFCESA's Petroleum, Oils, and Lubricants (POL) Distribution Systems WWW site at http://www.afcesa.af.mil/Directorate/CES/Mechanical/POL/POL.htm.

Visit EPA's Office of Underground Storage Tanks WWW site at http://www.epa.gov/swerust1/.

Contact PRO-ACT at DSN 240-4214 or (800) 233-4356 for information about State and Federal UST regulations.

Document References
Dollars and Sense: Financial Responsibility Requirements for Underground Storage Tanks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, EPA 510-K-95-004, July 1995.

Don't Wait Until 1998; Spill, Overfill, And Corrosion Protection for Underground Storage Tanks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, EPA 510-B-94-002, April 1994.

Title 40 CFR Part 280, Technical Standards and Corrective Action Requirements for Owners and Operators of Underground Storage Tanks (UST), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Musts For USTs: A Summary of Federal Regulations For Underground Storage Tank Systems, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response, EPA 510-K-95-002, July 1995.