Storage Tanks (UST) Frequently
Asked Questions (FAQ)
Frequently Asked Questions About Heating
Oil Underground StorageTanks
Asked Questions About The Bureau of Underground Storage
- Are Heating Oil Tanks Regulated?
- What is Heating Oil?
- What is meant by "Consumptive Use?"
- What is meant by "Premises?"
- Who Regulates Underground Storage Tank
- What are my responsibilities as an UST
Owner or Operator?
- How Much Time is Left?
- What is the Purpose of the 1998 Deadline?
- Will EPA Extend the Deadline?
- How Much Does It Cost to Upgrade, Replace,
or Close UST Systems?
- What is the States" Role in Enforcing
the 1998 Deadline?
- Where will EPA Enforce the 1998 Deadline?
- How Will EPA Deal With Non-Compliance?
- Can UST's Go into "Temporary" Closure?
1. Are Heating Oil Tanks
Answer: Tanks used for the storage of heating
oil for consumptive use on the premises where stored are
excluded from Federal Underground Storage Tank (UST) Regulations.
However, State agencies may regulate these tanks.
2.What is Heating Oil?
Answer: Heating oil includes several grades
of petroleum fuel oils: No. 1, No. 2, No.4-Light, No. 4-Heavy,
No. 5-Light, No. 5-Heavy, No. 6, Navy Special Fuel Oil,
and Bunker C, plus No.2 Diesel fuel and Kerosene when used
for heating purposes.
3. What is meant by "Consumptive
Answer:"Consumptive Use" is not intended
to be limited to use for heating purposes only: The definition
extends to any on-site use including heating, generating
emergency power, and generating steam, process heat, or
electricity. The exclusion does not apply to tanks storing
heating oil for resale.
4. What is meant by "Premises?"
Answer: The "Premises" is not limited to
the building where the heating oil is stored; it includes
any other location on the same property. Thus, centralized
heating units using heating oil that serve more than one
building on the same property would be excluded.
5. Who Regulates Underground
Storage Tank (UST) Systems?
Answer: In 1984, Congress directed the
U.S. EPA to develop regulations for underground storage
tank (UST) systems. Many UST's are subject to both Federal
and State regulations. EPA's Office of Underground Storage
Tanks (OUST) developed the Federal regulations which delegate
UST regulatory authority to approved State programs. States
with approved programs operate in lieu of The Federal regulations.
There are currently 24 States with approved UST programs.
6. What are my responsibilities
as an UST Owner or Operator?
Answer: All Federally regulated UST's must:
- Be registered
- Meet leak detection requirements
- Meet upgrade requirements (i.e. spill, overfill, and
corrosion protection) by December 22, 1998.
In addition, Owners and Operators must:
- Meet financial responsibility requirements
- Perform a site investigation and take corrective action
in response to leaks, spills and overfills
- Replace or close UST's that do not meet the upgrade
requirements by December 22, 1998
- Follow regulatory rules during the installation of new
tanks and closure of existing tanks
- Maintain records as required, and
- Have periodic checks performed on corrosion protection
and leak detection systems.
7. How Much Time is Left?
Answer: Time is up. The deadline was December
22, 1998. On this date, owners and operators will have had
a full ten-years to comply with the UST regulations. Owners
and operators of UST systems that are out-of-compliance
on this date are subject to fines of $11,000 per day for
every day their UST system(s) are not in compliance.
8. What is the Purpose of
the 1998 Deadline?
Answer: The purpose of the December 22,
1998 deadline for upgrading, replacing, or closing existing
substandard UST systems is to prevent another generation
of leaking UST systems. During the last decade over 330,000
releases from substandard tanks have been reported. Many
of these releases have caused serious environmental damage
as well as harm to human populations.
Contaminated water supply wells have been
shut down to prevent sicknesses and other adverse health
effects. Gasoline vapors have migrated into basements and
garages causing explosions and fires, which have claimed
human lives and resulted in costly property damage.
Only about one-third of the existing UST
systems have been upgraded since 1988, which was the start
of the ten-year period for completing UST system upgrade,
replacement, or closure. Over 600,000 UST systems still
need to be upgraded, replaced, or closed. These systems
are substandard and have a high probability of causing severe
environmental damage and threatening human health and safety.
If actions aren't taken to ensure that all UST systems meet
minimum acceptable standards, the next generation of leaking
UST's will be worse than the first generation was.
9. Will EPA Extend the Deadline?
Answer:NO! EPA will NOT extend
the December 22, 1998 deadline, and State, local or tribal
governments DO NOT have the authority to extend the deadline
for federally regulated tanks. EPA Administrator Carol M.
Browner in her letter dated May 14, 1997 supports this position.
By the deadline owners and operators will have had a full
ten-years to plan and implement one of the three options
for their UST system(s).
10. How Much Does It Cost
to Upgrade, Replace, or Close UST Systems?
Answer: All "cost estimates"
are educated guesses. First, note that cost estimates vary
significantly from site to site depending on: The nature
of the surrounding soil and structures, labor costs (rural
vs urban regional variations), the length of downtime (installation
may last several days), how much labor is required, especially
time required to break through existing site "covering
pads", reductions based on having combined work done
together (for example, having spill, overfill, and corrosion
protection all installed at the same time) vendor difference,
and proximity to deadline (cost will rise as deadline nears).
Cost Estimate to Upgrade USTís (add spill,
overfill and corrosion protection).
These are approximate costs based on a 3-tank facility
and include labor costs and 24 hours or less down time.
$6,200 3 Spill buckets
$1,500 3 Automatic shutoff (butterfly) devices
$5,000 Automatic overfill alarm (including 3 probes
and 1 automatic tank gauging system)
$0,300 3 Ball float devices
$15,000 Interior lining of 3 tanks (more than 24 hours
$10,000 Impressed current system, including an assessment
(assuming no interfering structures)
For example, a low rough cost for a 3-tank upgrade using
spill buckets, butterfly valves, and impressed current would
be about $12,700.
Cost Estimate to Replace USTís
Replacing an existing 3-tank facility with three new USTís
and Piping would cost roughly between $80,000 and $100,000
(including closing the existing USTís and putting in new
USTís) assuming no cleanup is needed, Replacement would
also involve about 2-3 weeks of downtime.
Cost Estimate to Close USTís
Temporarily closing an UST involves no more expense than
the monitoring that is required (corrosion protection, if
you have it; leak detection if thereís anything stored in
the UST) and, if closed more than 3 months, the capping
of all lines except the vent lines. Closing permanently,
however, requires emptying and cleaning the tank(s) and
either removing the UST or leaving it in place filled with
an inert solid, all of which would cost roughly between
$5,000 and $11,000 (not including site assessments or cleanup).
Cost of not Upgrading, Replacing, or Closing
After the December 22, 1998 deadline, owners and operators
of substandard UST system(s) who continue to operate their
out-of-compliance substandard system(s) risk fines up to
$11,000 per day per violation.
11. What is the States"
Role in Enforcing the 1998 Deadline?
Answer: EPA expects States to take the
lead in securing compliance with the 1998 UST requirements.
EPA recognizes that States can use various enforcement activities
to achieve compliance. These enforcement activities can
include filing administrative or judicial actions or immediately
stopping operation of a non-complying tank (e.g., by using
their "red tag" authority) States will use their
enforcement authority as necessary to demonstrate to UST
owners and operators that they will not be permitted to
ignore UST requirements with impunity.
In the months leading up to the December
22, 1998 deadline, EPA expects that States generally will
continue to monitor and enforce compliance with UST requirements
already in effect, including those for release detection;
to remind UST owners and operators of their obligation to
upgrade, replace, or properly close substandard UST systems;
make owners and operators aware of the fact that enforcement
action will be taken against those who miss the deadline;
and, in concert with EPA Regional Offices, develop plans
for post-deadline compliance and enforcement activity.
EPA expects that States will expeditiously
identify non-complying UST facilities, including marketers
and non-marketers, after the deadline and require those
facilities to be promptly upgraded, replaced, or properly
12. Where will EPA Enforce
the 1998 Deadline?
Answer: Under RCRA Subtitle I, EPA has
the authority to and will inspect UST facilities in order
to assess compliance with the UST regulations. While EPA
may take enforcement action in all States, its activities
will be concentrated in States that have less active UST
enforcement programs. EPA also will try to be responsive
to requests from any State for support in dealing with Federal
agencies or other UST owners-operators who are resistant
to State compliance efforts.
Factors the Agency will consider in deciding
when and where to conduct inspections will include UST compliance
levels and the level of States" compliance and enforcement
presence. EPAís Regional Offices will be responsible for
selecting the States in which Federal action will be undertaken.
Regional Offices will have continuing communication with
States about the status of State compliance and enforcement
Because EPA believes it is essential that
Regional Offices have latitude in deciding where to initiate
Federal actions, the Agency will not establish criteria
for such decision-making. Some degree of consistency from
one Regional Office to another is nevertheless important;
EPA believes that such consistency can be achieved through
ongoing communication between EPA Headquarters and Regional
EPA will also conduct UST inspections and
issue administrative penalty orders or field citations at
13. How Will EPA Deal With
Answer: After December 22, 1998, it will
be illegal to operate UST systems that are not equipped
to protect against corrosion, spills, and overfills. Owners
and operators who miss the deadline must bring substandard
UST systems into compliance by upgrading, replacing, or
closing them. If EPA finds them in violation, they will
be subject to monetary penalties for periods of non-compliance.
EPAís goal is to ensure that the regulated
community brings substandard UST systems into compliance.
When UST owners and/or operators fail to comply with the
1998 deadline requirements, EPA will initiate enforcement
actions to ensure prompt compliance with the UST regulations.
EPAís position is not to allow continued operation of substandard
UST systems after December 22, 1998. Toward that end, EPA
will take the position that substandard UST systems should
be temporarily closed until the work necessary to upgrade,
replace, or permanently close them is completed. Alternatively,
EPA may refer the matter to the State UST implementing agency
where a State has the authority to shut down such an UST
facility without initiating administrative or judicial proceedings.
In pursuit of its goal, EPA will use all
the enforcement tools available for dealing with UST violations,
including, administrative and judicial enforcement actions.
Judicial enforcement actions are particularly appropriate
in situations involving recalcitrant parties. The agency
may use field citations in some circumstances for a limited
period of time after the December 1998 deadline. In situations
where the inspection shoes that a release has occurred or
is occurring, EPAís regulations require owners/operators
to take immediate action to prevent any further release,
as well as other steps to respond to the release.
14. Can UST's Go into "Temporary"
Answer: UST owners and operators can comply
with the Federal regulations by upgrading, replacing, or
properly closing (either permanently or temporarily) their
USTís. During the time in which an UST system is temporarily
closed, it is permissible to upgrade, replace, or permanently
close it. If the period of temporary closure of a UST system
extends past December 22, 1998, the UST must be upgraded
or replaced before it can be legally operated.
EPAís regulations allow a UST system to
remain in temporary closure for a maximum of 12 months unless
the owner or operator completes a site assessment and obtains
an extension from the responsible UST implementing agency;
States and EPA are not obligated to grant such extensions.
EPAís position is that UST systems, that have not been granted
an extension by the implementing agency, should not remain
in temporary closure beyond December 22, 1999, even if the
USTs were placed into temporary closure after December 22,