Just like vehicles and pieces of equipment, underground storage tanks (USTs) have a lifespan of their own and eventually need to be replaced. On average, tanks can last around 25 years. That said, if tanks are close to “retirement age” and show signs of corrosion and rust, then it’s probably time to purchase new tanks.
Replacing USTs can require a substantial investment in terms of equipment, construction costs, and downtime. It’s also a process that should be given careful attention before signing a purchase order, during installation, and after installation. With a little legwork and due diligence on your part in these areas, you can help ensure:
- The lowest cost-of-ownership over the lifespan of the equipment
- Safe practices are followed during UST installation
- UST compliance management is effective
Let’s take a closer look.
Before Signing a Purchase Order
- Take a Look at the Regulations: Identifying UST regulations (including pending regulations) that dictate equipment requirements or that involve recurring labor and maintenance costs will help ensure compliance. This will also give you a better idea of total cost-of-ownership. Review applicable regulations with your supplier, too, so they can provide cost-effective product solutions that satisfy the regulation requirements.
- Consider Materials and Tank Shape: Choosing the proper tank can prevent tank failure and future complications. USTs are composed of either fiberglass or steel. Steel is stronger and a good choice if you have heavy equipment onsite or experience severe weather changes that can lead to ground saturation and breaches. Generally, fiberglass can resist corrosion in all types of climate. Flat-end steel tanks require less space than domed-end fiberglass tanks and typically cost less to install.
- Invest in Available Products: Investing in products that protect against water intrusion and leaks is money well spent. It will help reduce maintenance and contamination issues going forward. Discussing prevention solutions that are compatible with your USTs with your supplier will help extend the life of UST components, protecting tank integrity.
- Identify Potential Expenses: UST installation requires several purchases in addition to the tank. Asking your supplier for a list of potential expenses for different UST types will paint a clearer picture of your total investment and the lifetime value of the tank.
- Inspect and Test Tanks: Photograph and document tanks when they arrive. Make sure to examine for any defects. Conduct testing procedures and report any problems immediately to your supplier to ensure the warranty is not voided.
- Properly Ballast Tanks: Ballast tanks with water, not fuel. Once fuel is pumped into the tank, the tank is subject to UST regulations and must be covered under insurance.
- Examine Excavation Site With Contractors: Make sure that contractors have dug the correct size hole. If it’s too shallow and tanks are located in an area traveled over by vehicles or heavy equipment, the tanks may not be protected from the weight above. If the hole has an unnecessary slope, more backfill will be required, which means more expense. Additionally, make sure the right type of material is used to backfill the tank, as specified by the manufacturer. Watch over installers through the backfill process to ensure no voids are created.
- Create a “Birth Certificate:” Before the site is backfilled, document pertinent information, including the UST’s serial number, dimensions, burial depth, and anchoring system. This will also serve as a reference for maintenance, upgrades, insurance inquiries, and for future property owners.
- Follow Through: Keep up with maintenance, testing, and inspection practices to ensure effective compliance management.
- Complete Certification and Financial Responsibility Requirements: Complete and submit the EPA’s “Notification for Underground Storage Tanks” form with the proper local or state agency within 30 days of bringing the UST into use.
- Keep Records That Show Fuel Compatibility: For UST components, you must show they are approved by the manufacturer or by a nationally recognized independent testing laboratory for use with the fuel stored in the tank.
- Update UST “Birth Certificates:” Any maintenance or upgrades that dictate changes to the equipment should be documented in the “birth certificate.”
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