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What to Do if You Find An Underground Storage Tank on Your Work Site

old underground storage tank

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are over 550,000 underground storage tanks (USTs) that contain hazardous substances such as petroleum.  Many USTs are not listed on any federal or state databases, which means you may obtain or begin working on a plot of land only to discover the presence of a UST after you start digging. 

As we have previously discussed, one of the benefits of conducting thorough environmental due diligence on your worksite is to make sure that there are no unexpected USTs present.  Unfortunately, USTs are commonly “discovered” during excavation through the use of heavy equipment, which increases the probability of damaging the tank.  If you do find a UST during your diligence, you want to respond appropriately.  If you handle the presence of the UST improperly, it can derail your real estate transaction and possibly lead to a serious environmental hazard. 

If you do discover a UST on your land, stop your work immediately and assess the situation.  If you determine that there is any chance whatsoever of a leak, here are a few steps to take, as recommended by the EPA:

  • Try to stop and contain the leak as quickly as possible.
  • Call your local or state regulatory agency.  The EPA has a contact list for authorities in each state.  Releases must be reported within 24 hours, although petroleum spills and overflows of less than 25 gallons do not need to be reported if you properly contain and clean up the spill.
  • Call the fire department to assess any danger to humans nearby, including explosives or other hazardous chemicals.
  • Conduct “tightness” testing of the entire UST system.
  • Remove the UST from the worksite to avoid additional contamination or danger.
  • Collect the leaked substances, such as petroleum product floating on the water table.  The EPA requires you to report your progress to your local agency within 20 days after confirming a release.
  • Conduct an investigation to determine if there has been any damage to the environment, or if there is risk of future damage to the soil and groundwater.  Report your findings to the local regulatory authority in accordance with the schedule they set. 
  • After completing these steps, the regulatory authority will determine whether or not you need to develop a Corrective Action Plan to further address the leak. 

Call in the Professionals at Lutz to Handle Your Underground Storage Tank Issues

If you find a UST at your construction worksite, get help from trusted advisors with years of underground storage tank experience.  For advanced, professional assistance, call Herbert Lutz & Company, in Florida at 954-971-5222, or in New Jersey at 908-862-8888.

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