Underground Storage Tank Cleanup – Changes Lead to Program Success

Through cleanup, former underground storage tank (UST) sites become assets to their communities. Vacant UST properties in cities and towns are often on busy street corners and main thoroughfares, making them potential opportunities for economic development, community development, and neighborhood revitalization.

In working with the UST program and the resources provided through it, cleanup has taken place and new businesses, public facilities and recreational areas have been developed on the sites where unused gas pumps, old canopies and vacant building once stood.

For example: The owner of this UST site (see right) in Morehead, Ky., transformed this property into a new credit union. See the full story in a past issue of the UST Program newsletter, the UST Quarterly (Volume 1, Issue 3).

“Underground storage tank (UST) cleanups benefit the Commonwealth by protecting public health and preserving the natural resource quality and diversity that make Kentucky a great place to live, work and play,” said Len Peters, secretary of the Energy and Environment Cabinet. “As added benefits, UST cleanups improve property value and remove obstacles to redevelopment.”

Kentucky is fortunate to have a funding mechanism that provides recurring financial assistance to eligible UST owners and operators for cleanup costs, and, in certain cases, the removal of old UST systems.

This facilitates cleanups that may not otherwise take place since it helps UST owners who in many cases do not have the financial viability to self-fund the cost of removal and cleanup. The funds come from the Petroleum Storage Tank Environmental Assurance Fund (PSTEAF) and are from an assurance fee of $0.014 assessed on each gallon of gasoline and special fuels imported to Kentucky.

As you can see in the following chart, the Kentucky UST Program is on course to complete approximately 714 UST cleanups by the end of the 2012 calendar year – a 24 percent increase over 2011.

This increase is due in part to the implementation of 2006 and 2011 regulatory amendments intended to improve the reimbursement and cleanup processes. The primary purpose of the 2006 regulatory amendments was to better control and to streamline the UST cleanup reimbursement process.

“The 2011 amendments were designed to be the next phase of streamlining the Kentucky UST program, including risk-based decision making,” said Tony Hatton, director of the Division of Waste Management.  “We have made substantial progress toward closing out old UST sites while focusing our attention on those sites that pose potential environmental risk.”

The 2011 amendments also adopted the provisions of the Federal Energy Policy Act of 2005 which are intended to reduce the occurrence of UST releases.

As a direct result of these changes in the regulatory process, as illustrated in this chart, you can see that the total number of pending UST sites in need of cleanup has decreased substantially over the last few years.

While these charts reveal the clear success of the changes in the UST cleanup program and regulatory process, it should also be noted that as long as USTs and piping have an opportunity to leak, there will continue to be new UST releases and the need for a UST cleanup program for the foreseeable future.

In fact, the number of new cases being added to the cleanup list average 255 per year over the last six years.

Assuming consistent and ongoing funding being provided for the UST cleanup program, coupled with the expected advancements in release prevention and enhancements in the cleanup and reimbursement processes, the agency is hopeful that the number of cleanups completed will continue to outpace the number of cleanups added to the list in the years to come.

The programmatic difference, however, will be that the UST program will eventually be able to resolve UST environmental cleanup in real time as sites enter the UST program rather than having to be delayed while waiting in line to be processed with other pending sites.

This results in both timely protection of human health and the environment, and redevelopment potential of UST sites, accomplishing two primary objectives of the UST program.

For more information on the Kentucky UST Program, contact: 

Edward J. Winner, Branch Manager
Underground Storage Tank Branch
Kentucky Division of Waste Management
200 Fair Oaks Lane, 2nd Floor
Frankfort, KY 40601
502-564-5981, ext. 4782