A typical gas station stores 30,000 to 40,000 gallons of fuel in its underground storage tanks.
Now imagine if there occurs a leak in one of the tanks, and the fuel stored inside the tank is released into the environment…Or an accidental spill occurs…
It could result in a potentially devastating scenario!
And it’s not that cases of UST releases are unheard of; they happen and happen with regular frequency.
What system have you put in place at your gas station to prevent unintentional UST releases?
If you haven’t, you must do it now, especially with the EPA’s UST regulation compliance deadline fast approaching.
What are the measures you can take?
First things first…
Before you start focusing on putting a system in place, you must first know how a UST release can occur.
A UST release may happen because of:
- Improper installation of pipes orother UST components
- Tank corrosion
- An accidental spill while uncoupling the delivery hose from the fill pipe
- An overfill while refueling the tank
- Incorrect fuel filling practices
Of course, there can be other reasons as well, but these are the most common ones.
Now that you know what causes UST releases, let’s turn our attention to the steps you can take to prevent them.
We would like to begin with tank and piping installation practices…
Tank and piping installation
The EPA sets out a complete code of practice for installing UST systems at fuel retailing facilities; all gas station owners must adhere to this code.
In addition, the EPA also details certification, testing and inspection requirements to ensure the installation is performed in compliance with industry standards. The major requirements include:
- The installation should be performed by an installer certified by the tank and piping manufacturer… Or by an installer who is licensed by the implementing agency… Or at the very least, the installation should be inspected and certified by a registered engineer.
- All work listed in the manufacturer’s installation checklist should be completed and approved by the implementing agency.
Next, we’ll take a look at corrosion protection.
Corrosion protection for USTs
Underground storage tanks are susceptible to corrosion.
The water present inside these tanks!
How does water get inside your underground storage tanks?
It could happen because of condensation, an accidental drain where your spill bucket might be contaminated, tank cover being left open…etc., etc.
Naturally, water causes metal parts in your tank to corrode. And no matter how much you try to keep water away from your storage tanks, contamination is inevitable.
That’s why corrosion protection forms an integral part of every UST release prevention strategy.
What does corrosion protection entail?
Many things. Such as:
- Using a UST system made of fiberglass-reinforced plastic
- Reinforcing the steel tank with a cathodic protection system
- Installing an ATG with water monitoring capability
- Regular cleanups and inspection of USTs
What else can you do to prevent a UST release?
Remember we talked about accidental spills?
Spills are quite common at gas stations and it’s important to contain them.
To contain spills, gas stations typically use spill buckets. These buckets catch accidental drips that happen at the time of disconnecting the delivery hose from the fill pipe.
Gas station owners must use appropriately-sized spill buckets for effective spill protection. Also, these buckets must be regularly tested to ensure they are not leaking. Furthermore, care must be taken when draining the spilled oil back into the storage tank to avoid sediment or water contamination of tanks. If the spill bucket contains sediments or water, dispose the mixture safely in a place where it cannot pollute the environment.
As per the latest EPA regulatory update, gas station owners must also make sure they’re using double walled spill buckets for containment.
What about the overfills?
UST releases may also happen in form of overfills. Therefore, you must install overfill protection devices at your gas station to prevent such incidents. These devices will alert you when the fuel in your tank reaches a certain level during refueling and will automatically shut off the fuel flow.
Examples of overfill protection devices include:
- Flow restrictors
- Overfill alarms
- Automatic shutoff valves
You must also regularly inspect these devices to make sure they are functioning properly.
And last but not the least…
As a gas station owner, you must also ensure that correct filling practices are observed at your gas station when transferring fuel into the tank.
- Transfer operation should be continuously monitored.
- Volume checks should be made, both for the regulated substance and the underground storage tank, before transferring the fuel to prevent overfills.
It’s common for gas stations to be guilty of unintentional UST releases. However, with the right prevention system in place, these releases can be avoided.
A BONUS read: Fire at Gas Stations: Some Facts, Some Statistics and Some Prevention Tips
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