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Leaking Underground Storage Tank Corrective Action Compendium



About This Web Area

This compendium provides state and federal leaking underground storage tank (LUST) remediation specialists with resources and information. This web area provides a clearinghouse to present concepts and address issues associated with corrective action, with specific emphasis on the remediation of LUST sites. While the compendium seeks to comprehensively present the concepts of LUST corrective action, some topics and key sources will invariably be missing.  The material is intended to enhance understanding and compliance but not to substitute for regulations of the implementing agency.

In 1984, Congress responded to the increasing awareness of the threats to groundwater posed by leaking USTs by adding Subtitle I to the Solid Waste Disposal Act. Subtitle I required EPA to develop a comprehensive regulatory program for USTs storing petroleum or certain hazardous substances. Congress directed EPA to publish regulations that would require owners and operators of underground tanks to prevent, detect, and clean up releases. At the same time, Congress banned the installation of unprotected steel tanks and piping beginning in 1985. EPA created the Office of Underground Storage Tanks (OUST) to carry out this Congressional mandate to develop and implement a regulatory program for underground storage tank systems.

Organization Of This Web Area

This web area describes the process for cleaning up LUSTs. It begins with an overview of the LUST corrective action process. Each step in this process corresponds with a tab at the top of the page. The five steps (tabs) in this process are:

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Underground Storage Tanks Overview

Federal Statutes, Regulations, Policies, And Tools Related To Leaking Underground Storage Tanks

The Solid Waste Disposal Act, 42 U.S.C. § 6901 Exit EPA disclaimer et seq. addresses leaking underground storage tanks, or LUSTs. These regulations define an UST as a tank, or combination of tanks, together with any underground piping connected to the tank(s), that has at least 10 percent of its combined volume underground. The federal UST regulations apply only to certain underground tanks and piping storing either petroleum or certain hazardous substances. Specifically, Congress mandates that the EPA: develop regulations for USTs; make sure that each regulated UST meets a minimum level of protection for the public and the environment; develop prevention, detection, and corrective action programs; and complete a study to assess the condition of these USTs and recommend measures to minimize risk.

Legislation passed by Congress allows state UST programs approved by EPA (known as state program approval or SPA) to operate in lieu of the federal program. States may have more stringent regulations than the federal requirements. In Indian country, EPA directly implements the UST program by providing financial and technical assistance and by working with tribes to build their capacity to develop and manage UST programs.

In 1988, EPA promulgated its final rules for the regulation of USTs (40 CFR Part 280). At the time, it was estimated that approximately two million USTs would be affected by the regulations. The regulations mandate that all federally-regulated UST systems (including tanks, connected underground piping, underground ancillary equipment, and containment system, if any) meet standards of release prevention and detection, including spill containment, overfill protection, and corrosion protection measures, and that releases be detected, reported, and cleaned up.

Specifically, Subparts D, E, and F of the federal UST regulations address release detection, release reporting, and the corrective actions that are required when a LUST is identified. Subpart G addresses site closure. Subpart H addresses financial responsibility — a safety net in the event of a leak to ensure that someone is able to pay for cleanup and third-party compensation (40 CFR §§ 280.40 through 280.115). Another financial safety net is the federal LUST Trust Fund, the primary purpose of which is to provide money for corrective action where the UST owner or operator is unknown, unwilling, or unable to respond, or where emergency action is required. Further, CERCLA 128(a) (PDF) (5 pp, 177 K, About PDF) directs EPA to fund grants to supplement state and tribal response programs' cleanup capacity. The goals of this funding are to ensure that these programs include certain elements and to increase the number of response actions they are able to conduct or oversee.

While these provisions are in place to address corrective action, the best way to reduce releases and the subsequent need for cleanup is to prevent releases in the first place and to have compliance and enforcement programs to ensure this. Because the UST program is largely administered by the states, the states conduct the bulk of compliance inspections. Even for those states without program approval, EPA enters into agreements with the state programs to coordinate UST actions, as state programs are designated as the primary agency to oversee compliance and enforcement. The laws and enforcement actions of each state can vary significantly. EPA may take the lead in an action if requested to do so by a state. The Agency also works closely with tribes to implement the UST program in Indian Country, including having inspectors oversee UST management.

In situations requiring enforcement, the inspectors work with enforcement personnel to achieve compliance or cleanup. Enforcement actions to achieve compliance can range from a notice of violation, a compliance assistance plan, a formal enforcement action such as a field citation, or an administrative law judge can decide on the appropriate enforcement action. In LUST enforcement, an enforcement action is formal and delineates the cleanup process and timeline an operator/owner must take to achieve cleanup. Noncompliance with an order can trigger penalties, which can be mitigated by implementing Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs).

EPA and others provide resources and tools to help implement these regulations. The "UST901" Exit EPA disclaimer course is a Web-based course designed to meet the training requirements for UST inspectors under EPA Order 3500.1. Topics include preparation for field inspections, on-site equipment inspections, compliance records review, the purpose and goals of the UST program, the history of the UST program, financial responsibility requirements, and the federal UST regulations. In partnership with EPA, the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) has a clearinghouse of information for inspectors Exit EPA Disclaimer that includes an on-line forum and information about training.

More On Laws, Regulations, Policies, And Tools [Show/Hide]

Laws, Regulations, And Policies Pertaining To Underground Storage Tanks
Links compiled by EPA that direct the user to key federal laws, regulations, and policies pertinent to USTs.

Solid Waste Disposal Act, Subtitle I: Regulation Of Underground Storage Tanks (42 U.S.C. § 6901 et. seq.) Exit EPA disclaimer
The Act (law) amended by the U.S. Congress that gives EPA the authority to develop regulations governing USTs in order to protect the public and the environment. (Subchapter IX addresses the regulation of USTs.)

Regulations Pertaining To Underground Storage Tanks (40 CFR Part 280)
Federal regulations addressing technical standards and corrective action requirements for owners and operators of USTs.

Subpart D – Release Detection

Subpart E – Release Reporting, Investigation, And Confirmation

Subpart F – Release Response And Corrective Action For UST Systems Containing Petroleum Or Hazardous Substances

Subpart G – Out-of-Service UST Systems And Closure

Subpart H – Financial Responsibility

Underground Storage Tank (UST) Enforcement Compendium (31 pp, 177K, About PDF)
Compendium prepared by EPA that includes a summary of the UST compliance monitoring and enforcement process, highlighting new requirements resulting from the Energy Policy Act of 2005 as well as a listing of key enforcement-related documents.

Region, State, Tribal, And Local Underground Storage Tank Program Contacts
Links compiled by EPA that direct the user to many helpful LUST programs and contacts.

Financial Responsibility
Guidance from EPA on the basics of financial responsibility (FR) regulations for owners and operators of USTs.

Financial Responsibility For Underground Storage Tanks: A Reference Manual (320 pp, 2.8MB, About PDF)
An EPA reference manual for states and EPA Regions that provides a comprehensive look at the federal UST financial responsibility (FR) program, various FR mechanisms, and assistance in reviewing FR documentation.

UST Technical Compendium Category 6: Financial Responsibility (FR)
Questions and answers compiled by EPA that provide clarification on UST financial responsibility regulations.

Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) Trust Fund
Questions and answers from EPA and links to guidance on the LUST Trust Fund.

Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation And Liability Act (CERCLA) Or Superfund, Section 128(a); Notice Of Grants Funding Guidance For State And Tribal Response Programs (PDF) (5 pp, 177 K, About PDF)
Grants available through EPA to supplement state and tribal response programs' cleanup capacity.

State Financial Assurance Funds Surveys Exit EPA disclaimer
Results of annual Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO) surveys of costs incurred by state fund programs for cleaning up releases from USTs.

Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs)
EPA enforcement link which provides more information on SEPs.

UST901: Introduction To The Underground Storage Tanks (UST) Program And Basic UST Inspector Training Courses Exit EPA disclaimer
Online training from EPA for state and EPA UST inspectors and staff.

New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC) - UST Inspectors Exit EPA disclaimer
Website funded through a cooperative agreement with EPA that serves as a focal point for all state UST inspectors; a clearinghouse of pertinent inspector information.

UST Program Performance Measures
Program-related data including the number of active and closed tanks, releases reported, cleanups initiated and completed, inspections, and facilities in compliance with UST requirements.

UST Technical Compendium Category 4: Release Investigation, Confirmation, And Corrective Action
Questions and answers compiled by EPA that provide clarification on release investigation, confirmation, and corrective action (RICC).

Promotion Of Innovative Technologies In Waste Management Programs (7 pp, 20K, About PDF)
EPA OSWER Policy Directive 9380.0-25 - Promotion of Innovative Technologies in Waste Management Programs.

Pay For Performance (PFP) Contracting And USTs
This type of contracting mechanism pays contractors a fixed price as measurable environmental goals are reached.

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Typical Site Cleanup Roadmap

The typical sequence of activities, or "roadmap," followed to address a potential or confirmed LUST is to (1) confirm that a release has occurred; (2) take sufficient corrective actions to reduce or eliminate the imminent risk to human health, safety, and the environment; (3) report the release to the appropriate government agency; and (4) evaluate the source and extent of contamination. The typical site cleanup roadmap is designed to continuously evaluate threats to human health and the environment that may be emanating from the site. It does this by establishing a process for sampling, drilling, excavating, upgrading failed UST systems, remediating, and other associated activities.

More On Typical Site Cleanup Roadmap [Show/Hide]

Environmental Law Reporter News & Analysis
RCRA Subtitle I: The Federal Underground Storage Tank Program
(30 pp, 146K, About PDF) Exit EPA disclaimer
Article providing an overview of the federal UST program. Sections III.B.g and III.B.h describe immediate actions and associated timing when a release occurs.

Expedited Site Assessment (ESA)
A guidance manual created by EPA to help state regulators understand the expedited site assessment process so that they can more effectively oversee and promote ESAs to improve the remediation process.

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Site Assessment And Remediation Technologies

Once a release is detected at an UST facility, an initial assessment of the site must be done to identify the nature and extent of the release. This process provides a broad overview of the release and an understanding of the release's impact on surrounding receptors. A valuable approach to prepare for a site assessment is the development of a conceptual site model (CSM) Exit EPA disclaimer. The conceptual site model integrates the available information of a release with all known site information and is critical in determining whether additional information or types of information need to be collected at the site. Development of this model helps to determine potential exposure routes and possible effects of the contaminants on human health, safety, and the environment and is a key tool in developing an effective corrective action strategy for the site. Comprehensive assessment actions follow and are designed to evaluate how the release may impact human health, safety, or the environment and to aid the site professional in making informed decisions about the cleanup. The detailed assessment of a release may involve using either standard cleanup goals or site-specific risk information to remediate the contamination caused by a release. As part of this work, remediation approaches should focus on providing cost-effective solutions conducted within a reasonable timeframe that reduce environmental impact by addressing the core elements of a green cleanup (i.e., impacts on air, energy, water, materials and waste, and land and ecosystems).

EPA also promotes the use of the Triad Exit EPA disclaimer approach, which manages site cleanup decision-making uncertainty using improved technologies and better scientific methods, resulting in accelerated schedules, reduced project costs, and improved remedial outcomes.

More On Site Assessment And Remediation Technologies [Show/Hide]

Conceptual Site Model Development Exit EPA disclaimer
Overview of the Conceptual Site Model from the Triad Resource Center.

ASTM E2531 - 06e1 Standard Guide for Development of Conceptual Site Models and Remediation Strategies for Light Nonaqueous-Phase Liquids Released to the Subsurface Exit EPA disclaimer
Guide created by ASTM to answer simple and fundamental questions about the LNAPL occurance and behavior in the subsurface, help identify specific risk-based drivers and non-risk factors for action at a site, and prioritize resources consistent with these drivers and factors.

Site Characterization/Assessment
Links provided by EPA for improving the efficiency and effectiveness of site characterizations, including modeling software and site characterization technologies and processes.

Principles for Greener Cleanups
EPA page outlining principles for greener cleanups.

Greener Cleanups Information Resources Exit EPA disclaimer
A list of resources, including Greener Cleanup Task Force Papers, state information resources, and EPA information resources, compiled by the Association of State and Territorial Solid Waste Management Officials (ASTSWMO).

Triad: Overview And Key Concepts Exit EPA disclaimer
An overview from the Triad Resource Center that explains the Triad's three key components: systematic planning, dynamic work strategies, and real-time measurement technologies.

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Risk-Based Decision-Making (RBDM)

The cleanup action that is ultimately selected to address a fuel release will be based on the effectiveness of reducing risk to human health and the environment. Some states permit the use of risk-based corrective actions Exit EPA disclaimer (RBCAs), which allow different cleanup standards to be set depending on the site-specific conditions. This approach can streamline the review process and reduce the cost of cleanup actions by considering the potential risk or exposure caused by the LUST at a particular site. Every release has a unique set of characteristics, and the most appropriate corrective actions will vary.

More On Risk-Based Decision-Making [Show/Hide]

ASTM E1739 - 95(2002) Exit EPA disclaimer
Standard Guide for Risk-Based Corrective Action Applied at Petroleum Release Sites.

ASTM E2205 / E2205M - 02(2009)e1 Exit EPA disclaimer
Standard Guide for Risk-Based Corrective Action for Protection of Ecological Resources.

Risk-Based Decision-Making And Underground Storage Tanks
A summary of the risk-based decision-making (RBDM) process created by EPA that includes links to RBDM national implementation strategies and implementation support.

Tiered Approach to Corrective Action Objectives (TACO) Fact Sheet 7: Tier 2 Exit EPA disclaimer
Illinois Environmental Protection Agency fact sheet on developing remediation objectives using site-specific data with pre-established modeling equations.

Risk-Based Decision Making (RBDM) for the Remediation of Petroleum-Contaminated Sites Exit EPA disclaimer
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality guidance on RBDM to provide a consistent, streamlined decision-making process for evaluating risk posed to human health and the environment.

Risk-Based Site Evaluation Process Guidance Documents Exit EPA disclaimer
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency guidance outlining a risk-based approach to decision making during site investigation and remedy selection under the state's Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup (VIC) and Superfund programs.

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