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State EPA Underground Storage Tank Rules Implementation Plan


The Iowa Department of Natural Resources UST Section has taken an ultra-aggressive approach to implementing the Environmental Protection Agency’s revised underground storage tank rules released in the summer of 2015. Despite the EPA rule allowing state’s like Iowa with UST program approval until October 2018 to adopt and implement its rule, the Iowa DNR UST Section has been consistent in its approach to accelerate that deadline and implement a state rule well in advance of EPA’s timeline.

The rule handed down by EPA is the most major revision to its underground storage tank regulations in thirty years and comes at a time when marketers are already facing the challenges of an aging storage tank population and an unfunded electronic payment mandate in the form of EMV. From a regulatory standpoint, the rule handed down by the EPA is the worst kind. The foundation of EPA’s rule is built around the testing of four major components of a UST system:

  1. Secondary Containment.
  2. Spill Prevention Equipment.
  3. Overfill Prevention Equipment.
  4. Release Detection Equipment.

The problem with this regulation is that the UST system components required to be tested under the rule were not designed to be tested after being placed into their operational environment. In many cases even manufacturers have not developed testing protocols for their products, primarily because at the time they were manufactured the regulatory environment did not require the components to be removed and tested. In the private sector, away from the sanctuary of tenure, we call regulations like this one an unfunded equipment mandate.

Sump Containments and Spill Buckets:

Containment sumps used for interstitial monitoring of piping must be tested within three years of the effective date of this final UST regulation through hydrostatic, vacuum, or pressure means. The Iowa DNR estimates that 17% of UST systems in the state will be subject to the testing requirements associated with containment sumps.

The most likely testing protocol used to test containment sumps and spill buckets will be hydrostatic testing. Hydrostatic testing involves filling a containment sump with test water to a specific level above the highest penetration in the sump and measuring the liquid level over a period of time and monitoring that level for a change. If the liquid level drops over a period of time, it is assumed a leak is present and the liquid level remain static at the point of the leak.

Hydrostatic testing of sumps and spill buckets present several challenges for owners and operators. Placing test water in containment sumps and spill buckets will generate thousands of gallons of contaminated test water which will need to be cleaned and discharged. Regulators have stated that test water may be reused from site to site, but most marketers have rejected the idea of reusing test water from another’s site at their own. The issue of reusing test water across sites is a moot one from the point of view of a UST insurer, they are unlikely to allow the introduction of contaminated test water from site to site.

Release Detection Equipment Testing:

EPA is requiring owners and operators to perform annual operation and maintenance tests on electronic and mechanical components of their release detection equipment to ensure the equipment is operating properly. This includes the following components:

  1. Automatic Tank Gauge
  2. Probes and Sensors
  3. Automatic Line Leak Detector
  4. Vacuum Pumps and Pressure Gauges
  5. Handheld Electronic Sampling equipment associated with vapor and groundwater monitoring.

Release detection equipment testing is required within the first three years after implementation of the rule on the state level and annually thereafter. As marketers, have discussed at length, the primary challenge associated with EPA’s release detection equipment testing requirement is the removal of the ATG, Probes, and sensors from their operational environment. Marketers have identified many sites where these components have been hard-wired and will not be able to be removed without rewiring or splicing. Both of which add additional costs, downtime, and inconvenience.

Finally, what happens when a component of a release detection system is damaged during removal and the owner/operator is left without a functioning method of leak detection? To this point regulators have been either unable or unwilling to address this question although one regulator suggested that service companies will stock release detection components and have them available in the event of a break. That’s doubtful. The more likely scenario is that marketers will be without release detection until such time that a replacement component can be secured and installed.

Overfill Prevention Equipment Inspections:

Owner/operators are required to inspect overfill prevention equipment to determine whether the overfill prevention equipment will activate prior to the overfilling of a tank. For marketers operating with an automatic shut-off device in the fill pipe, inspecting the automatic shut-off device means confirming that the shut-off works and at the appropriate level.

To meet the inspection requirements for overfill prevention equipment, marketers are likely to be forced to remove their automatic shut-off device to inspect the unit for functionality. With the exception of automatic shut-off devices engineered within the last year, manufacturers of automatic shut-off devices were not designing devices with testing in mind. Since the release of this regulation manufacturers have begun engineering devices that are capable of being tested in place. However, very few of these devices have been installed and many marketers using an auto shut-off device are doing so without the ability to test their unit in place.

Compounding the problem for marketers is that presence of dissimilar metals along with corrosion that has caused many of these devices to seize in place. This makes removal of these devices extremely unlikely without damaging the device. In discussions with UST professionals about the likelihood of removing auto shut-off devices, it is estimated that more than 70% of the auto shut-off devices removed for testing will be damaged beyond repair requiring replacement of the device without testing the device.

For marketers using an audible alarm as their means of overfill protection the audible alarms functionality will need to be confirmed. This means that marketers will need to confirm that the alarm sounds at the appropriate level. It is expected that many marketers will be transitioning towards audible alarms as their primary means of overfill prevention.

An option for marketers using an auto shut-off device to consider is installing an audible alarm on their system set to activate at a level below their auto shut-off device. In doing so, the auto shut-off device is no longer their primary means of overfill prevention and no longer requires removal thereby avoiding all the unnecessary costs associated with removing the device.

Moving Forward:

As a state we have until October 13, 2018 to put EPA’s rule into effect. From the date that the rule takes effect, EPA requires that each test type listed above must be conducted within three years. Using October 13, 2018 as a benchmark, this means that all the components listed above must have their first test completed no later than October 13, 2021. Unfortunately, the Iowa DNR UST section is attempting to accelerate the timelines for testing, something PMCI and other stakeholders have adamantly opposed. It’s important to note that the process of implementing EPA’s regulation has not yet entered the state’s rulemaking process. Based on the Iowa DNR UST sections unwillingness to seek alternative compliance methods put forward by marketers and stakeholders, it will be incumbent upon marketers to actively engage in the rulemaking process by attending hearings and submitting comments.

If you have questions about the rule, please contact John in the PMCI office at 515.421.4043.

Iowa DNR UST Section proposed dates for implementation:

Spill prevention equipment testing

Within 3 years of October 13, 2018

Overfill prevention equipment inspections

Within one year of adoption

Containment sump testing for sumps used for piping interstitial monitoring

Within 3 years of October 13, 2018

Release detection equipment testing

Within one year of adoption

Walkthrough inspections (monthly/annual)

Within one year of adoption

Standards and Guidance Compliance Tanks and Equipment

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