August 13, 2015

EPA Makes Significant Changes to the UST Regulations

On July 15, 2015 [80 FR 41566], EPA published a final rule completely revising the Part 280 underground storage tank (UST) regulations. This rule represents the first major revision to the federal UST regulations since 1988 and includes requirements for operator training, secondary containment, operation and maintenance testing and inspection, and compatibility of materials of construction with tank contents.

Operator training

The new rule defines three classes of UST operators, A, B, and C, based on duties they typically perform at UST facilities. Each class of operator is required to meet a minimum standard of training, although authorized states can add additional training elements. Retraining is required only if the UST system is found to be out of compliance. Documentation of training for all operators is required. The new training requirements need to be implemented by October 13, 2018.

Secondary containment

The new rule requires secondary containment with interstitial monitoring for all new and replaced USTs and associated piping. This provision is mandatory for all USTs, whether they are storing petroleum products or hazardous substances. If 50% or more of a pipe run is to be replaced, that constitutes replacement and triggers secondary containment for the entire pipe run. Additionally, any new dispensing system is required to have under-dispenser containment in place. EPA is not requiring secondary containment for UST systems where installation began on or before April 11, 2016. [80 FR 41574]

Testing and inspection

One of the most substantial changes in the new rule is the requirement for testing and inspection of UST equipment to ensure that it is operated and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications. The new regulations focus on testing for certain containment sumps and release detection devices and inspections of overfill and spill prevention equipment. Most of these requirements must be implemented by October 13, 2018.


EPA is concerned that the shift to biofuels and fuels containing high concentrations of ethanol could cause compatibility issues with existing tank systems designed to store more traditional fuels. The 2015 UST rule contains new requirements to ensure that UST system materials of construction are compatible with these more corrosive substances: 1) there is a 30-day notification requirement before changing an existing UST system over to any regulated substance that contains >10% ethanol or >20% biodiesel, and 2) any UST system managing these substances must maintain records showing compliance with the new compatibility requirements.


There were a few deferrals from the 1988 regulations for field-constructed tanks, USTs associated with emergency generators, airport hydrant systems, and wastewater treatment systems. Some of these deferrals have been revised and some have been completely removed.

Additional requirements

Other, less-significant changes to Part 280 include: 1) changes in the use of flow restrictors, 2) requiring the closure of tanks where the internal lining has failed, 3) changes to the use of vapor and ground-water monitoring for release detection, 4) requiring testing after a tank repair is made, and 5) additional notification requirements.

The rule is effective October 13, 2015, but implementation dates for the major new requirements range from October 13, 2015 to October 13, 2018, depending on the complexity of the provision. A detailed list of implementation dates for the various new requirements can be found in Implementation Time Frames for 2015 Underground Storage Tank Requirements, EPA-510-F-15-001, July 2015.

EPA has established a website containing significant information on the revised UST regulations. The site includes a link to a detailed comparison of the 1988 UST regs with the 2015 rule.


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