Underground Storage Tanks (UST)

September 06, 2002

Underground tanks (UST’s) in the state continue to be heavily regulated. Leaking underground tanks have ruined many a businesses. With the recent brouhaha of contamination of drinking water by MTBE, the cost of cleanup has escalated, not to mention the rise in the emotional thermometer of the public. All this points you to keep your UST’s in full compliance with the environmental regulations and making sure that leaks, if any, are promptly detected. Here is a quick summary of the regulations.


  1. The tank needs to be permitted by the local regulating agency. Usually, the local CUPA will issue a permit. An annual fee, which varies on jurisdiction, must be paid.
  2. The tank must be registered with the State Board of Equalization and the Underground Tank Clean-Up Fund Fee must be paid annually. Fee is based upon gallons of throughput.
  3. Gasoline dispensers must be permitted by the local Air Quality Management District (e.g. the SCAQMD).

Vapor Recovery Test & Decay Test: SCAQMD now wants all non-retail Gasoline Dispensing Facilities, a.k.a., car dealerships with a gas tank, to conduct tests on the vapor recovery systems on the dispensers by May 2001 and annually thereafter. Only a SCAQMD certified tester must be used and notice must be given to the SCAQMD prior to testing. Please note that AQMD is sending no notices to you for testing the vapor recovery system. A static-pressure decay test is also required annually. Approximate cost $300.

Monitoring System Testing: The release detection sensors and the alarm system on the tank for detecting leaks must be tested annually. A fancy tank and an expensive alarm system is no good without a properly operating alarm system. Approximate cost $250.

Secondary Containment Testing: This is the tough one. The secondary containment installed around the tanks, i.e., the outer wall needs to be tested by December 31, 2002 and then every three years. Also, needed to be tested are the secondary containment for the piping and the sumps. Consultants tell Westates that the secondary containment in 75% of the cases is failing! Move on this quickly.

Precision Tank Test: Not needed for double walled tanks with a continuous annular space sensor. Since most of the tanks have this equipment, no precision tank test is necessary.

Dispenser Pan: On all gasoline tanks, a pan (secondary containment) is needed below the dispenser system. Generally, the deadline is December 31, 2003. If your tank is located within 1000 feet of a drinking water well and installed after 1987, the deadline was 7/1/2001. The cost is about $10-15K. Further, if you break ground to repair or upgrade, you must install the pan right away!

The article was authored by Sam Celly of Celly Services, Inc. Sam has been helping automobile dealers comply with EPA & OSHA regulations in California, Nevada, Arizona, Hawaii & Idaho since 1987. Sam received his BS & MS in Chemical Engineering followed by a JD from Southwestern University. Sam is a Certified Safety Professional & a Registered Environmental Assessor (CA). Your comments/questions are always welcome. Please send them to sam@cellyservices.com.

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