Underground Storage Tanks


As we have noted in past newsletters, by December 22, 1998 underground storage tanks must be brought into compliance with regulations promulgated pursuant to the Underground Storage Tank ("UST") Act (Part 211 of Michigan's Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act ("NREPA")). This deadline represents the culmination of Michigan's ten-year program for upgrading older underground tanks. All old tank systems (USTs installed prior to December 22, 1988) must be upgraded to meet the new requirements before December 22, 1998. (This is a federal requirement which applies in all states.) Your UST must already have an approved method of leak detection installed. If your UST does not meet the new standards for overfill and corrosion protection, you must either upgrade to meet these requirements or remove the UST. The regulations apply to USTs containing petroleum products and, with some variation, hazardous substances. A few categories of USTs are exempted from the regulatory requirements.

The condition, design or placement of many old USTs will make upgrading the tank impracticable or uneconomic. Hence, we expect some clients to remove their USTs in lieu of upgrading. Predictably, some of those removals will encounter releases of petroleum products. In that case, there are other regulatory requirements which must be met in addressing the resulting contamination.

Many of our clients have already upgraded their USTs. From their experiences it appears that the demand for upgrading and removal services will be strong in 1998. As a consequence of the increased demand, time schedules for performing the work will be extended and contractors may be able to add a premium to their 1997 prices. We strongly recommend that you initiate actions to upgrade or remove as soon as possible to avoid unnecessary costs or delays. Further, the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Underground Storage Tank Division is taking the position that it will not give a grace period for compliance. At the least, it plans to "red tag" (i.e., order immediate cessation of use) noncompliant tanks. The UST Division plans an active inspection program in early 1999 and, hence, you should not plan to use a noncompliant UST after December 2, 1998. The law and regulations also permit the assessment of fines and penalties.

Please contact us for advice or assistance in bringing your USTs into compliance or to determine whether your UST is covered by these requirements.