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MassDEP Finalizes Underground Storage Tank Regulations

MassDEP’s new regulations governing Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) became effective January 2, 2015.  MassDEP took responsibility for USTs from the Department of Fire Services in 2009 and initially relied on existing regulations in the state Fire Code.  Since then, MassDEP undertook a substantial effort to develop the new regulatory program, now located at 310 CMR 80.00. 

The new regulations address the design, construction, installation, registration, operation, maintenance, and inspection of UST systems. The rules apply to USTs that hold petroleum or hazardous substances with a number of exemptions that mirror the exemptions from federal UST rules, such as hazardous waste USTs and USTs that hold less than 110 gallons.  Some tanks, such as certain small tanks used at farms or homes, are exempt from many of the requirements.

The new regulatory program contains many familiar requirements, but also imposes new obligations.  Among the many new or modified requirements are: 

  • Registration.  New UST systems must be registered within 30 days of being filled with a regulated substance.  The registration must be updated if any information on the registration changes.  Notification to MassDEP is required upon certain events, such as changing the substance in the tank and taking the tank out of service.

  • Initial Inspections.  Any new UST system must be installed by a certified individual and that person must provide a certification to the owner or operator that the system was installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s specifications.  In addition, any new UST system must pass a tightness test before being filled.  Various design requirements also apply.

  • Ongoing Inspections.   Third-Party Inspections by certified individuals are required once every three years.   The minimum eligibility qualifications for inspectors  have been increased, third-party inspectors have to pass an exam and complete annual training. 

  • Financial Responsibility.  Financial responsibility requirements now apply to both hazardous material tanks and petroleum tanks.  The owner or operator must maintain and demonstrate the financial ability to take corrective action and compensate third parties for bodily injury and property damage in the event of a leak from the UST system.  The regulations allow various mechanisms for demonstrating that the requirements are met.

  • Compliance Certifications.  Once every three years, the owner or operator must certify that the UST system is in compliance with the regulations.  This compliance certification must include the third-party inspection report and, as needed, a plan for returning to compliance.

  • Delivery Prohibitions - Red tags.   MassDEP has the authority to, and in some cases must, prohibit deliveries to UST systems after written notice.  This may occur when there has been a failure to install required spill prevention or leak detection equipment, such equipment is not being property operated, or financial assurance requirements are not met, among other things.  

  • Recordkeeping and Transfer.  The owner or operator must maintain various records including a scaled drawing or set of as-built plans prepared by the installer or a professional engineer.   When a property containing a UST system is sold, the owner is required to transfer the as-built plans and related information to the new owner.

While most of the UST requirements in the Fire Code have been repealed in light of the new MassDEP regulations, some associated regulations remain in place.  For example, fire departments will continue to issue permits for keeping, storing, and handling flammable or combustible liquids, and local licensing authorities will continue to issue licenses for keeping, storing, or selling flammable or combustible liquids.  Fire departments will also continue to issue permits for removal of USTs, with notice to MassDEP.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume V, Number 40



About this Author

Jeanine L.G. Grachuk Environmental Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Boston, MA

Jeanine is a top-rated Massachusetts environmental lawyer with extensive experience in air, water, and waste issues arising within a variety of industrial sectors.

Solving puzzles is what Jeanine enjoys most about environmental law. She likes taking a complicated set of facts hidden in environmental reports and unpacking the information until the key legal issues are revealed.

When providing advice to clients, Jeanine listens for what they need—whether it’s a quick and actionable answer, a trusted counselor, or a gut check—in addition to their legal questions. She also...