An Environment Protection Authority Victoria (EPA) statewide inspection team has built up a list of tips and traps, to help service station owners protect their business and the environment from the effects of fuel leaks.

EPA Executive Director – Practice & Assurance, Chris Webb, said underground petroleum storage systems (UPSS) constitute a common source of land and groundwater contamination, and a good maintenance and monitoring program is vital.

“EPA has been working with WorkSafe, visiting service stations to see the best and worst of UPSS management and explaining the importance of managing their sites to prevent leaks and encourage safety,” Mr Webb said.

“The most common trap for the operator is a leaking underground fuel tank.  Another common one is where the service station has an open pit drain on the forecourt, with nothing to stop fuel and oil contaminated runoff going straight to stormwater drains and into the nearest creek or river,” he said.

As a support to service station operators, EPA’s inspection team offers a brief list of measures, some sophisticated and others quite simple, that the operator can use to detect or prevent potential leaks and contamination from their UPSS:

  • Statistical inventory reconciliation (SIRA): – computer software that analyses inventory, delivery and dispensing data over a period of time, to determine if the system is leaking.
  • Automatic tank gauging (ATG):  a system that electronically monitors fuel levels and other data in underground tanks.
  • Equipment integrity testing (EIT): a testing system using vacuum or pressure to detect flaws and leaks in UPSS equipment.
  • Groundwater monitoring wells: a convenient way to measure groundwater levels and test its chemical properties for signs of leaks.

“While EPA’s inspections have occasionally resulted in fines, they are primarily focused on encouraging service station operators to voluntarily manage their UPSS for the benefit of the environment and the community,” Mr Webb said.

“In a handful of cases, operators have been issued with Pollution Abatement Notices, legally enforceable instructions from EPA, to take measures to prevent contaminated runoff going to stormwater drains and implement leak detection measures,” he said.

The inspections complement the routine inspections conducted by WorkSafe Victoria and the emergency services.

The inspections are part of EPA’s UPSS at Operational Service Stations project, created to increase awareness in the service station sector of the importance of complying with environmental and OH&S obligations.

The inspections are also an opportunity for EPA to ask operators for feedback on the Underground Petroleum Storage System (UPSS) Flipchart that was sent to 1400 service stations in recent weeks as a practical tool to support compliance.

The Flipchart is a handy guide with practical information to help service station operators to prevent and manage leaks, spills and other hazards, often with simple things that fit easily into their daily routine.

It includes: safety check lists, emergency contacts, technical/maintenance information, procedures for dealing with spills and leaks, and an easy-to-read guide to their legal requirements.

“EPA is working in cooperation with the industry to benefit the environment, the community and the service station owners and operators,” Chris Webb said.

The Underground Petroleum Storage System (UPSS) Flipchart is available for download at:

http://www.epa.vic.gov.au/~/media/Publications/1670.pdf

Extracted from VIC EPA.