Underground storage system owners and operators are responsible for ensuring storage tanks are always in good working order and meet applicable regulatory requirements. Anunderground storage tank inspection is especially important because it protects human health and the environment by detecting spills, overfills and corrosion.
Over time, regular inspection can save you money, too. Here are four tips that will help you get the most from underground storage tank inspection:
1. Know the rules.
Are you anticipating a formal inspection? Good organization is always your first line of defense against trouble, so if you have everything in order, being prepared for an official inspection should not be problematic. Naturally you’ll need to know when your tank was installed, its construction materials, how you use it now and its history since installation. Typically, an official inspection will cover:
- Underground storage facilities – everything from proper labeling of tanks, valves and pipes to checking working condition of gauges, controls, venting and alarms. The inspector will check for any signs of leakage or other issues with catchment, secondary containment and transfer areas.
- Security – fencing and gates, loading and unloading connections, lighting.
- Emergency spill response preparedness – no signs of leakage, but a telephone, personal protection gear, fire extinguisher and absorbent material on hand.
The inspector could ask to see your reporting and record-keeping documentation. You’re required to:
- Maintain daily inventory records, and retain them for five years.
- Record of any unexplained losses.
- Monitor interstitial space weekly, if you have double-walled tank.
- Monitor cathodic protection monthly.
- Monitor release detection monthly.
2. Conduct your own inspections.
You should be doing your own underground storage tank inspection on a regular basis. A good rule of thumb is to do a visual inspection once a month, checking the same things a regulatory inspector would look at. Be sure to record your self-inspection dates and findings so you have a complete history.
Creating a simple check-list will make inspection easy and consistent. Include specific items such as these and leave space for notes, for future reference:
- Release detention system.
- Spill buckets.
- Overfill alarm.
- Impressed current system.
- Fill and monitoring ports.
- Spill and overfill response supplies.
- Dispensing hoses, nozzles and fittings.
- Dispenser and associated pumps.
- Piping sumps.
Examine all fittings and pipes you can see for cracks, discoloration, breaks, kinks. Everything should be clean and in good working order, without signs of deterioration or other impending failure. Make sure your release response supplies are adequately stocked and readily available.
3. Address problems immediately.
It might be tempting to ignore seemingly insignificant issues such as a bit of rust or a hose that’s starting to show signs of wear. Resist that temptation. Compliance failures will likely result in fines or closer regulation. But that could pale in comparison to the costs of remediation and related health problems, not to mention damage to your reputation, if you allow problems to persist. It’s not worth it.
Besides, un-repaired problems have a way of expanding, which only makes them more difficult and more costly to repair later on.
4. Keep up with best management practices.
Maintaining your above-ground area and equipment so it’s clean and free of debris can help keep problems from developing in the first place.
Professional environmental engineers can help, too. It’s their job to know all the rules and any changes that are made to them. They have established working relationships with regulators, which can come in handy if you ever have a problem. On an ongoing basis, they can help you ensure your facility is entirely compliant, make cost-effective management recommendations and even conduct inspections for you to make sure you don’t miss something.
Regular underground storage tank inspection helps to protect public health and our natural environment. Closer to home, it ensures your facility is operating properly, and that protects the ongoing health of your bottom line.
Photo Credit: MassDept