UST- Storage Tanks

Professional Geologists & Soil Scientists Providing Environmental Consulting Services


Residential Underground Storage Tanks

Underground storage tank systems (USTs) have long been used to store fuel oil for home heating. Tens of thousands of these USTs have leaked or are currently leaking.  Many more are expected to leak in the future.  Leaking USTs can contaminate nearby soils and groundwater and fuel oil vapors can permeate our homes, foul our indoor environment, and cause health-related problems. 

Many tanks have been abandoned in favor of alternative heating sources such as electric heat pumps or natural gas.  Others have been replaced with above ground tanks as the underground tank deteriorated.  Although these abandoned tanks are not regulated under federal guidelines, they may be subject to state or local regulation. 

In the Commonwealth of Virginia residential fuel oil tanks may be subject to regulation under Article 11 of State Water Control Law when a release of fuel oil is discovered.  As authorized by Article 11 the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality may require owners to perform corrective action as necessary to protect human health and the environment. Additionally, abandoned residential fuel oil tanks may be regulated under the International Fire Code.  The building official or Fire Prevention Division of the local jurisdiction where the tank is located maintains a permit system for code compliance.

Underground Storage Tank Closure

According to the current International Fire Code as well as the Uniform Statewide Building Code any tank abandoned for a period of more than one year, or determined to be leaking, shall be removed from the premises in an approved manner, and the site restored in an approved manner.  Where the code official determines that the removal of the tank and piping is not necessary, the tank and piping shall be abandoned in place. 

In order to complete tank closure we investigate each tank site by conducting soil borings in the vicinity of the tank to check for evidence of a release.  Where a release is confirmed, the responsible person (owner) is required to report findings to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality in accordance with Article 11 of the State Water Control Law.  The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will authorize work, which is commensurate with the level of corrective action necessary to properly respond to a petroleum storage tank release. 

In the event no leakage is detected, the tank should be closed in accordance with all provisions of the International Fire Code.  The IFC procedure for in place abandonment of residential fuel oil tanks provides that the tank is emptied of combustible liquids and the fill line is permanently capped or plugged below grade to prevent refilling the tank.    

Who is Responsible and What Will It Cost?

Under current law, the owner of the real estate at the time the release is discovered and reported to the Department of Environmental Quality is the responsible person for the release.  In the event corrective action in response to the release is deemed necessary, the responsible person may seek reimbursement through the Virginia Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Fund (VPSTF).

The Commonwealth of Virginia established the Fund with the passage of Article 10 of the State Water Control Law.  The responsible person is eligible to request reimbursement from the Fund for costs that exceed the Financial Responsibility Requirement (FRR) up to a maximum of $1 million per occurrence.  The FRR for a residential storage tank used for home heating is $500.00.

GeoEnvironmental Services, Inc. may accept payment from the VPSTF for all activity authorized in excess of the FRR and ineligible cost for code compliance.  Our turn-key service includes; tank removal, corrective action requirements, site restoration, report generation and filing all necessary documents to fulfill the state’s requirements.  The VPSTF limits an owners out of pocket expense for Department of Environmental Quality required environmental clean up resulting from leaking petroleum tanks to the $500 FRR. Generally ineligible expenses necessary to meet minimum code compliance for tank closure should not exceed $335