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Chemical and Petroleum Storage

Items of note:

Removal of Old Storage Tank

Tanks storing petroleum and hazardous chemicals must meet minimum standards established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). New York's Hazardous Substances Bulk Storage Program provides guidelines and controls for the storage of many different hazardous chemicals.

Fiberglass Tank Installation

The Problem

Improper handling and storage of petroleum and hazardous chemicals can result in leaks and spills and pose a serious threat to the quality of the environment in New York State. Petroleum, additives and a variety of industrial chemicals have been discovered in many of the State's groundwater supplies. In some wells, only trace quantities have been discovered; in others, levels have exceeded federal and State drinking water standards. Hundreds of drinking water supplies have been closed because of excessive chemical contamination.

Water contamination is only one consequence of poor handling practices. Mismanagement of some substances may pose occupational hazards, present a fire or explosion risk or result in a release of odors or fumes with serious public health and environmental consequences to the neighboring community.

Gasoline, which fuels the millions of automobiles we all drive each day, is highly flammable and can flash violently when ignited. Gasoline and many other hazardous chemicals when inhaled can cause drowsiness, nausea and other adverse health effects.

Once a chemical soaks into the ground, it disperses and may dissolve and contaminate a water supply for many years. Cleanup is often difficult and it is usually expensive.

New York State has approximately 52,000 storage facilities which involve an estimated 125,000 bulk storage tanks. Leaks and spills occur as a result of poor housekeeping, overfilling of tanks, loading and unloading mistakes, and poor maintenance and inspection.

An Ounce of Prevention

When it comes to handling hazardous materials, there is truth in the old saying - "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." For every dollar spent on preventing a spill, many dollars are saved in cleanup cost and damages.

New York State (NYS) prevents leaks and spills at petroleum and chemical storage facilities through the Bulk Storage Program operated by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The Bulk Storage Program is based on four (4) laws enacted over the past 20 years. Three (3) are State laws requiring the DEC to develop and enforce standards for storage and handling of petroleum and chemical products and to regulate aboveground and underground tanks storing these products. For summaries on these State regulatory programs, choose from the following topics.

The fourth law is the federal amendment to RCRA (Subtitle I) requiring the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to regulate underground storage tanks (USTs). Under the memorandum of understanding with EPA, DEC assists in the regulation and inspection of 36,000 underground tanks covered by Subtitle I, provides education to tank owners and encourages compliance with federal regulations.


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