A quick review of how the 2015 EPA UST Regulations have been changing the UST compliance landscape over the past year.
First the Numbers:
According to the EPA Semiannual Report of UST Performance Measures (Mid Fiscal Year 2019 October 1, 2018 - March 31, 2019):
- 548,682 - That's the approximate number of regulated USTs at 198,000 facilities nationwide. That’s roughly 3 tanks per location.
- 38,569 - That's the number of UST Compliance Inspections the EPA conducted at federally-regulated UST facilities (during the October 2018 to March 2019 timeframe). That’s 316 inspections per working day nationwide!
- 48.4% - That's the UST Technical Compliance (TRC) rate of these inspections.
- 70.2% - That's the Significant Operational Compliance (SOC) rate of these inspections.
The reason for the rates difference is that some states still use the old way of scoring (SOC) while the EPA is promoting the new way (TCR) that some states have already implemented.
Additional Compliance Measures not included in the TCR or SOC scores:
- 86.3% - Class A and B operator training requirements compliance rate.
- 91.3% - Financial responsibility requirements compliance rate.
- 74.5% - Walkthrough inspection requirements compliance rate.
- Technical Compliance Rate or TCR - This rate is the new way to classify overall site compliance and takes into account the 2015 regulations for Spill Prevention, Overfill Prevention, Corrosion Protection, and Release Detection. This rate does not include Operator Training, Financial Responsibility, or Walkthrough Requirements.
- Significant Operational Compliance or SOC - This rate is how the EPA once assessed overall compliance. This method included the percentage of facilities in "Significant Operational Compliance" with UST Spill, Overfill, and Corrosion Protection; UST Leak Detection; and UST Release Prevention and Detection. The SOC rate is being phased out as states begin incorporating the 2015 regulations.
What is this data telling us?
It seems obvious by the low TCR value (48.5%) that the industry is struggling with implementation of the new regulations. But it’s important to realize that a multitude of issues affect this overall score. Those states still using the SOC scoring continue to keep a compliance percentage comparative to previous semiannual reports (70.3%). Comparing these rates is a bit like comparing a grape to a plum. They taste similar but are inherently different.
How are these changes affecting our industry?
It will take time for the industry to fully embrace and implement these changes. Compliance managers are dealing with issues we never could have planned for until implementation of the nuts-and-bolts of the new regulatory requirements.
Let's take overfill devices (specifically ball floats), for example. We know most ball floats were never installed to be removed periodically for testing. Now if they fail testing or you can't access them, they must be removed. This presents a unique challenge to remedy and triggers some hard questions to answer.
- Should the automatic shutoff device be set at 90%?
- If so, what impact will this reduction in capacity have on fuel inventory, delivery management, and costs?
- Should we dig down to the tank and physically remove the entire ball float assembly even though the ball is gone?
Questions like these can be tough to answer and involve several different departments, not only on a single-site basis but exponentially more so at the enterprise/programmatic scale.
Spill bucket liquid is another costly issue making waves and is a direct result of monthly walkthrough inspections. Liquid in your spill buckets is (or is going to be) an issue, whether from rain or a delivery driver. In the past you might only have to remove that liquid when the bucket was full or once every 12 to 15 months when a regulator conducted an inspection. Now we are documenting the presence/absence of liquid on a monthly basis. Unless you live in Death Valley, there's a good chance you’re documenting water more often than not.
What’s the financial impact?
We put some numbers to this conundrum. Let’s say just over half of the sites mentioned previously in the EPA semiannual report had liquid in spill buckets once a month – not an unrealistic number if you’ve been tracking your walkthrough inspection results. That's 100,000 locations requiring some sort of follow-up action. If all UST operators removed and disposed of this liquid properly, and they each spend $100 to do so, it would total $10M (yes, that’s an “M”) for these sites to "be in compliance." That is until the next significant rainfall occurs, and the cycle starts again. We can only hope that challenges like this drive creative solutions instead of illicit discharges.
How Should We Respond?
Implementing the new regulations represents a steep learning curve for everyone involved – including the regulators tasked with enforcing them. Cliché or not, the best credo may be to Improvise, Adapt and Overcome. At EnSafe that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for years on behalf of our clients. Through more than 15 years of providing UST compliance program support and management we have developed creative solutions for just about any issue.
To save you money, we can help design and manage a drum program that reduces the amount of vac truck mobilizations for each site. Or we can help in implementation of an Overfill Testing Program that keeps you on the front edge and knowledgeable of those large capital expenditure costs. EnSafe has developed a wide range of compliance solutions for adapting to the new UST regulations.
We are passionate about what we do. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the new UST regulations – and what often seems like a rocky path to compliance - we’d love to hear from you. Contact Ric Federico, PG or Adam Wanta, PG today.