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Above Ground Fuel Oil Tank Spill Containment Regulations

Having a fuel tank on your property, be it home or business, is a convenient source of energy. However, any leak that may occur in the tank can lead to contamination of the environment, from soil contamination to tainting underground water sources. In order to keep the environment and your property safe, there are secondary containment regulations that must be followed.


How Leaks Happen

In order to keep oil tanks safe, the EPA has created regulations.

Many storage tanks are a form of metal, which can rust or corrode over time.  When corrosion occurs, petroleum products contained in the tanks begin to leak.

The same corrosion can happen in the pipes that carry the oil to different locations.  Another cause of oil contamination can be accidental overfill of the container.

General negligence while removing the product from the tank can also lead to spills. 


Ways to Contain Leaks

There are many ways to help detect and contain leaks.  These can be double-walled tanks, liners and dikes that sit bellow the tank, and deep vaults that can catch the oil that spills.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these secondary containers must be made of an impermeable product that oil cannot seep through, thus protecting the immediate area from contamination.  In addition, secondary containment must be able to hold 110 percent of the total amount of the primary containment.

These areas must constantly be cleared of water or other debris to ensure there is always enough space to catch the entirely of a primary tank's contents.  Once a tank has been out of use for over a year, it should be declared as out of service, and all pieces of the tank system, from the tank itself to the secondary containment, should be removed from the area.


Preventative Regulations

The EPA is federal body that regulates secondary containment, and the document that lays out the regulations, 40 CFR Part 112, also has a list of regulations that detail leak prevention.  All tanks must be routinely monitored to ensure no leaks have occurred.

These checks can also identify places that may be problem areas on the tank in the future.  Though not included in the 40 CFR Part 112, the EPA also recommends that tanks be placed in areas that have corrosion prevention measures, such as elevating the tanks or placing them on continuous concrete slabs.

Underground piping systems should also be double-walls, to help prevent leaking once the oil has left the tank. 

About the Author

An avid lover of science and health, Meg Michelle began writing professionally about science and fitness in 2007. She holds a bachelor’s degree in physics from Creighton University and master’s degree in science writing from Johns Hopkins. Her work has appeared in publications such as EARTH Magazine.

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