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Tanks in for New Coatings, Inspections

Monday, October 6, 2014

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As many as 80,000 aboveground storage tanks in West Virginia may fall under a set of new mandates for rigorous inspections, coating system overhauls, and spill prevention plans, state officials say.

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection is working on getting tank owners and operators up to speed with the requirements of the Aboveground Storage Tank Act, part of Senate Bill 373, the Water Resources Protection Act.

The bill requires that all aboveground storage tanks in areas of critical concern be registered with the DEP and subject to annual inspections by the department and independent engineers.

The bill was swiftly implemented after nearly 300,000 residents spent a week without water in January when a 48,000-gallon tank owned by Freedom Industries leaked about 10,000 gallons of 4-Methylcyclohexane Methanol (MCHM), a chemical foaming agent used to "wash" coal, into the Elk River in Charleston, WV.

Freedom Industries
U.S. Chemical Safety Board

Aboveground storage tanks are the focus of a West Virginia law passed after a 10,000-gallon chemical leak left nearly 300,000 residents without water. The spill was blamed on corrosion damage unchecked by adequate inspections.

The bill was passed March 8, signed April 1 by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, and took effect June 6.

Lacking Inspections

Leading up to the incident, West Virginia had required inspections only for chemical production facilities, not storage facilites. At the time of the spill, the New York Times reported that Freedom Industries' storage facility had not been subject to a state or federal inspection since 1991.

In July, the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said severe corrosion damage, probably caused by water leaking through holes in the roof and settling on the tank floor, had chewed two small holes into the bottom of the tank. The CSB added that it had no record of a formal, industry-approved inspection being performed on any of the chemical storage tanks at Freedom Industries before the leak.

"The Elk River chemical spill has made us all—in our communities and across our nation—take a closer look at our infrastructure, especially in areas of critical concern around our waterways," Tomblin said.

Required Registration

Now, the DEP is charged with keeping tabs on hundreds of thousands of ASTs throughout the state. That task started with requiring owners to register each tank, regardless of its operational state. The deadline to register was Wednesday (Oct. 1); as of Sept. 29, the DEP reported 46,409 registered tanks, according to

However, the department estimates as many as 80,000 tanks in a variety of industries could fall under the new guidelines.

Although the registration deadline has passed, the DEP says it wants to work with owners who are trying to comply with the new regulation.

"While our preference is to have everyone registered by the deadline, we realize that's not attainable," DEP spokesperson Kelley Gillenwater told "We're not out to 'get' anyone—meaning we're not going to be out issuing violations and fines on Oct. 2.

"We understand there will be some tank owners who may not have information readily available. As long as those tank owners are making a good-faith effort, are being cooperative, and aren't willfully violating the law, we are willing to work with them and guide them through the process."

©iStock / Lisa-Blue

ASTs will be classified by three levels. Level 1 is "high risk" tanks that will face the strictest rules.

Tank owners are required to submit spill prevention response plans by Dec. 3 and tank inspection certificates by Jan. 1.

3 Levels of Tanks

The DEP hosted a day-long stakeholders session Wednesday to discuss plans for implementing the new law.

The new tank rule applies to tanks that hold at least 1,320 gallons of liquid, are 90 percent or more aboveground, and are at a fixed location for 60 days or more.

Under the new rule, there are three levels for AST regulation based on potential risks to public health and the environment:

  • Level 1: High risk due to contents, location or size;
  • Level 2: Reduced risk based on location to water intakes and populated areas; and
  • Level 3: Low risk due to contents or because the ASTs are subject to strict regulations under another program.

ASTs are considered Level 1 if they are located in "zones of critical concern," wellhead protection areas or groundwater intake areas under the influence of surface water; contain hazardous substances; or have a capacity of 50,000 gallons or more.

The rule also includes several new siting stipulations that will require ASTs to be at least three feet apart, be positioned to meet local and state Fire Marshal requirements for flammable and combustible substances, and not be located above underground utilities or directly under overhead powerlines.

The law requires the DEP to set per-tank registration fees at a level high enough to "defray" the costs of enforcing it. However, the department said it would not be ready to estimate that fee until final registrations numbers are in.

The department has also issued a draft Interpretive Rule to address initial inspection, certification and spill prevention response. The rule is open for public comments until Oct. 9.

Containment Requirements

The DEP will have to develop several AST regulations for consideration in the 2015 legislative session. At the meeting, the department presented on the draft for its AST Emergency Rule.

The Emergency Rule draft covers operation and maintenance; reporting and recordkeeping; design, construction and installation; corrosion protection; overfill and spill prevention; leak detection; secondary containment; and tank status.

Under the proposed rule, secondary containment will have to be able to prevent the discharge of the entire capacity of the largest single tank and be able to hold a release for at least 72 hours.

Secondary containment for Level 1 ASTs would have to be visually inspected every 72 hours; Level 2 would require inspection every 30 days.

aboveground storage tank
Steel Tank Institute

"We're not experts in the tank business," said DEP Secretary Randy Huffman. "Regulating aboveground storage tanks is not something we have a long history of doing."

Monthly and annual inspections would be required for other tank functions, and certified inspectors would also come in every three to five years to give their OK on the structures.

Coating Mandates

The draft also has several coating requirements, including:

  • A cathodic protection system designed by NACE and tested by a NACE-certified inspector six months after installation and every three years thereafter;
  • An exterior coating system that must be able to permanently bond, exterior tank and piping surfaces that have been properly prepared prior to applying coatings, and exterior coating systems maintained in good condition; and
  • An interior coating/lining system that is chemically compatible with the substance being stored, interior surfaces that are properly prepared, and a coating system that is free of defects.

The proposed draft would give Level 1 ASTs until Dec. 31, 2015 to repair or upgrade coatings, and Level 2 ASTs would have until June 30, 2016.

Written comments on the Emergency Rule are being accepted through Oct. 24 at

Industry Concern

Officials from the coal and oil and gas industries attended the meeting with questions about whether the law should apply to them.

According to the Charleston Gazette,the representatives called their operations "unique" and said some of the new regulations could be hard to comply with. The industry has argued that many of its tanks aren't located near public water sources and merit a broad exemption.

However, Scott Mandirola, director of the DEP's Division of Water and Waste Management, said 40 percent of the ASTs located in "zones of critical concern" are related to the oil and gas industry, the Charleston Gazette reported.

"We're not experts in the tank business," DEP Secretary Randy Huffman commented. "Regulating aboveground storage tanks is not something we have a long history of doing."


Tagged categories: Cathodic protection; Government; Health and safety; Laws and litigation; North America; Program/Project Management; Tanks

Comment from Mike McCloud, (10/6/2014, 8:48 AM)

They should have the local fire departments do the inspections. They seem to be the experts on everything and they will have their finger on the pulse of the tank farm. Us taxpayers pay them anyway and it seems they are always away at some sort of training.

Comment from OM PRAKASH JAT, (10/7/2014, 8:01 AM)

These tanks must have an yearly scheduled inspection along with the clients who has done the job of fabrication and coating.its happened due to lack of inspection and quality of the work.

Comment from Billy Russell, (10/7/2014, 4:56 PM)

There is more involved in an accurate out of service Tank inspection than Fire departments are capable of, I would recommend they follow API 650/653 would be a great place to start since they are so far off any type of inspection schedule.

Comment from Billy Russell, (10/8/2014, 9:30 PM)

40% are related to the oil & gas industry there for API 653 5 year inspection requirements do apply, make it happen stop the excuses.

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