EPA Issues Proposed Regulation on UPSS

The NSW Environment Protection Authority has issued its Regulatory Impact Statement on the Proposed Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems or UPSS) Regulation 2014. A summary of important details about the Proposed Regulation are available below.

Rationale of the Proposed Regulation

The proposed Regulation primarily aims to mitigate the occurrence of contamination from Underground Petroleum Storage Systems (UPSS) that could pose dangers on human health and the environment. Further, the requirements set in the proposed Regulation will enhance site infrastructure and will facilitate early detection of leaks thus contamination and clean – up costs will also be prevented. The said requirements are based from the Australian Standard 4897 – 2008: The design, installation and operation of underground petroleum storage systems.

Modifications contained in the Proposed Regulation

Modifications are made in such a way that will:

  • Enable loss monitoring procedures to take into account the particular characteristics and usage patterns of a storage system
  • Provide greater flexibility in the use of loss monitoring procedures for a storage site
  • Enable the use of alternative secondary leak detection systems
  • Enable environment protection plans to be kept electronically as either a consolidated document or a collection of documents
  • Include new definitions such as the definition of ‘leak’ and clarify the meaning of existing definitions such as the definitions of ‘petroleum’, ‘routine maintenance’, ‘significant modification’ and ‘storage site’
  • Clarify reporting requirements

People affected by the Proposed Regulation

The proposed Regulation will apply to persons who will operate the UPSS and take responsibility on the storage system. Thus, it will apply to every single site with active UPSS. Currently, NSW has about 2,200 active retail service station sites with UPSS. However, the Regulation excludes those premises licensed under the POEO Act that amass petroleum products. In like manner, sites with UPSS utilized for fuel storage for generators, heating and waste oil are exempted but only until May 31, 2017.

Under the proposed Regulation, the EPA continues to have power over the issuance of exemptions, just like in the current Regulation.

Current status of petroleum storage in NSW

The problem on leaks and spills coming from petroleum products stored in underground tanks has resulted to economic losses and environmental degradation. This reality is reflected in the New South Wales State of the Environment 2012 (SoE 2012) which tells that over 750 sites with leaking fuels have been accounted ever since the implementation of POEO Regulation in 2008. In the same token, UPSS are deemed to likely contribute to the contamination of groundwater resources which an estimated 11 percent of which (NSW’s groundwater) is used for both agricultural and domestic purposes. Aside from these, the following instances show some significant economic and environmental implications of the issue.

  • Direct economic loss on the part of the UPSS owner operator
  • Time consuming and high clean – up costs of contaminated soils and groundwater
  • Considerable cost to remediate UPSS site as well as other affected properties
  • Liability for third party damages

Despite the challenges, the current Regulation has developed environmental performance of UPSS sites in NSW. For example, new infrastructure and major chain operations are compliant to regulations except small operators and those located in regional areas which are being worked on.

For better understanding, EPA will continue to assist and educate:

  • Local government
  • Individual owners and operators
  • Major fuel chains and service station retail chains
  • Industry associations
  • Contractors and consultants who provide equipment and services to the service stations to ensure progressive improvements to site and underground infrastructure management.

For more information on the Proposed Regulation for Underground Petroleum Storage Systems check out the (PDF Doc).