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FAQs about UST and LSRP in NJ and FL

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions concerning underground storage tanks (USTs) and licensed site remediation professionals (LSRPs). If you have other questions related to known or suspected USTs on a property you currently own or formerly owned, or if you are being tasked with an environmental cleanup related to a storage tank leak or other contamination, contact Herbert Lutz & Company at 954-971-5222 in Florida or 908-862-8888 in New Jersey.

Does NJDEP have jurisdiction over storage tanks that are only partly below ground?

NJDEP regulates all tanks that are ten percent or more buried and that contain hazardous substances. The ten percent threshold applies to the tank, connectors, pipes and all components of the entire UST system.

Do I need an attorney if I’ve been contacted by NJDEP?

Environmental cleanup is a costly business, and NJDEP may try to spread this cost over multiple current and former property owners. Proving that you are responsible for contamination, even if a discharge has been observed, requires that certain facts be shown. The law in this area is constantly changing, so getting advice and representation from an attorney can be critical to avoiding or minimizing your liability for an environmental cleanup.

Hank Lutz, Principal at Herbert Lutz & Company, is an attorney licensed to practice law in Florida and New Jersey, as well as a licensed contractor certified in New Jersey tank installation, closure and subsurface evaluation, and he is licensed as a Florida pollutant storage contractor. Although Herbert Lutz & Company does not perform legal work, Hank Lutz is knowledgeable about the legal aspects of USTs and works with property owners and their attorneys with informed and insightful advice on their options and appropriate steps to take.

Are home heating oil tanks subject to environmental regulations?

Residential heating oil storage tanks are excluded from federal UST regulations so long as they are for consumptive use on the premises where they are stored. However, these tanks when leaking are still subject to regulation by NJDEP. If your tank is leaking or otherwise discharging oil, you should contact NJDEP right away, as well as a certified UST professional or licensed site remediation professional.

How do I know if my home has (or had) an underground storage tank?

Any home built prior to the 1970s is suspect. If your home was built in the 1950s or 60s, chances are that an underground oil tank was installed at that time. If your home is even older, it may still have been converted to fuel oil in the 50s and had a tank installed then. If you see vent pipes or fill pipes coming out of the ground on your property, these are sure signs a tank was installed on your property. Of course, if there is an oil furnace in the basement or old furnace parts lying around, you can be assured a tank was under your property at one time and may still be there. A UST professional can use even more sophisticated methods to determine if your property contains a tank or had one that was removed.

Is it possible to close a tank temporarily, or must it be permanently closed?

Whether a tank can be closed permanently or temporarily is governed by federal regulations. In any event, closure must be performed properly in accordance with regulations. Different requirements apply regarding whether the UST is being temporarily closed for three months or more, up to twelve months, or permanently. Maintenance and monitoring for corrosion protection is required on all temporary closures, and any release detection must be complied with if a release is either suspected or confirmed. Release detection is not required if the UST is empty as defined in the regulations.

Does a tank have to be emptied before it is closed?

Regardless of whether the UST is being removed or left in the ground, federal regulations require the tank to be emptied and cleaned by removing all liquids, dangerous vapor levels and accumulated sludge. USTs left in the ground are to be filled with a harmless, chemically inactive solid, such as sand, or closed in place in a manner approved by NJDEP. Abandonment in place should be rarely used, as it negatively affects future  property marketability. If abandonment in place is a must, however, then the UST must be properly filled. Only trained professionals should perform these activities, which are potentially very hazardous if done incorrectly.

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