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Important Safety Information About Underground Fuel Storage Tanks

Thursday, January 12th, 2017
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Underground storage tanks full of crude oil or other toxic chemical substances can be safety risks to people residing near their location. Storage tank testers must attempt to determine if a property houses a buried storage tank, if it is in operation, and what material it contains. All of this information must be included in his or her assessment. The tank should be examined for leaks, particularly if tests have never been conducted, if the tank is worn out, or if it is unused. The following is some important safety information that anyone dealing with fuel storage tanks should know.

Underground fuel storage tank statistics

Based on the findings of the Groundwater Protection Council, there are over 640,000 nationally regulated underground tanks that contain gases and other dangerous chemicals. Of those, roughly 465,000 have had leaks, most of which required clean-up procedures. However, many tanks with leaks never received cleaning since the party in charge was never found. Real figures are probably much higher than these numbers, which only incorporate the recorded instances. At highest risk of underground fuel storage tank hazards are homeowners who consume groundwater. A substantial portion of the overall United States population own water wells supplied by groundwater.

Hazards posed by underground fuel storage tanks

After it is released from a storage tank, fuel drains through dry earth and penetrates the groundwater table. Once there, most of the substance turns to vapor and rises through the ground, although some can be left behind in the water. Petroleum-polluted water that is consumed or bathed in can be fatal. Fuel leaks also present the threat of fires and explosions, particularly when the vapors accumulate inside structures. Unfortunately, storage tanks can leak toxic compounds for long periods of time, as the decay process is usually gradual.

Why fuel hazards are so dangerous

BTEX substances like benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylene are classified as the most dangerous compounds present in crude oil. Benzene-polluted water is known to be carcinogenic, as is water tainted with MTBE (methyl tert-butyl ether), a substance added to fuel so that it burns smoother. In the past, this particular substance has contaminated 9,000 neighborhood water lines in over 30 states, though its usage in fuel has been discontinued.

How to locate a leak in an underground fuel storage tank

The legal responsibility associated with leaking underground fuel storage tanks may be substantial for a homeowner. Testing usually costs about $500, which is less than what is needed to clean a subsurface oil spill and replace a fuel storage tank. If a leak has occurred, the problem needs to be found and repaired as soon as possible. Testing involves one or several specialized procedures.

Pressure testing involves monitoring pressurized fuel storage tanks for a set period of time to check for variances that might pinpoint a leak.

Soil testing is another method for determining where a leak is coming from. Soil samples from the area near a storage tank are gathered and sent to a laboratory to be analyzed. If the testing reveals that chemical substances have seeped out, more samples should be obtained in order to fully determine the degree of toxic contamination.

The water testing method asserts that if water has penetrated a fuel tank by way of a crack, toxic compounds could escape the same way. When water is circulated through gas pipes into a furnace, it can corrode the metallic components of the oil filtration system. Looking for this issue is just one method of checking for water inside a storage tank. It is also possible for water to penetrate a fuel storage tank via poor oil distribution or moisture build-up.

Other techniques like ultrasound and GPR (ground-penetrating radar) are able to generate an image of a tank to pinpoint leakages.

Dealing with leaks in underground fuel storage tanks

Storage tanks with leaks need to be taken out of the ground or packed with a biologically inactive material like sand. Groundwater pollutants must also be filtered out by driving air through the liquid, which makes unstable petroleum molecules burn up and decay organically. The practice of treating or extracting water and oil in a storage tank is called remediation. This process is very expensive and not always successful.

Many residential communities have been compelled to seek out other drinking water sources due to pollution. To prevent this expensive and challenging dilemma, newly installed tanks must be buried away from water sources and adequately managed once in operation.

Kendrick Oil provides top-quality wholesale fuel and storage tank monitoring

In addition to the high-quality wholesale fuels we sell at Kendrick Oil, we also provide fuel storage tank rentals and tank monitoring plans. If you need bulk fuel products or fuel related services, call us at (800) 299-3991 or Contact Us by email for more information. We proudly operate in the states of Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, and Kansas.