Approximately 544,000 underground storage tanks (USTs) in the United States store gasoline or hazardous substances, and these UST systems can be vulnerable to damage during natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey—and can even release regulated substances into the environment. Before returning a damaged UST to service, the owner or operator needs to ensure the system has been properly evaluated and restored to safe operating condition.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has resources to help UST owners and operators prepare for, prevent, or lessen catastrophic effects and environmental harm from natural disasters.
The EPA’s Underground Storage Tank Flood Guide suggests practices that may help owners and operators quickly and safely restart UST systems and bring them back into service. The guide also cites information about contacting the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the appendix contains links to additional industry guides.
Depending on the site-specific situation, owners and operators may take the following actions after the water has receded and local officials allow for re-entry:
- Make sure the power is off to any UST-related equipment (such as power to the dispensers, pumps, release detection equipment, and other devices).
- Determine if product leaked from the UST.
- Determine if water or debris entered the UST.
- After inspecting the electrical system, return power to the UST system.
- Check release detection system for proper operation. Perform release detection again, as soon as possible after the flood.
- Check all equipment including pumps, shear valves, fill pipes and vent lines for proper operation.
- Clean and empty spill buckets and sumps, including those under the dispensers and above the tanks.
- Inspect the piping and fittings for damage and possible leaks.
- Perform an UST system tightness test to ensure integrity prior to adding product.
- Test spill buckets and sumps to ensure they are tight.
- Test cathodic protection to ensure it is operating properly.
Additional EPA resources include:
To report oil spills or chemical releases, call the National Response Center at 800-424-8802.