Interpretive Rule Eases Some Requirements in New Storage Tank Law

In response to numerous concerns from owners and operators of aboveground storage tanks throughout West Virginia, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection recently added a new component to the state’s aboveground storage tank law, which went into effect earlier this year.

The storage tank law was put into place after a chemical spill from a leaking storage tank contaminated the water supply of Charleston, rendering it non-potable for more than a week. The law creates a new database of every storage tank in the state and requires that all tanks be registered with this database, among other requirements designed to improve the safety of storage tanks in the state.

One of these requirements, that all storage tanks be inspected by a licensed engineer, was met with resistance from owners, operators, and industry personnel, who were concerned about the costs and necessary investment of time that would be required in this operation. Some argued that smaller owner/operators would not be able to bear the costs associated with the new law.

In response to these concerns, the DEP added a new “interpretive rule” to the law which loosens these requirements somewhat. The rule creates three categories of storage tanks, levels 1, 2, and 3. Level 1 tanks are those which are likely to pose a “high risk of harm to public health” in the event that something goes wrong. Level 3 tanks are the tanks that pose the least risk to public health, such as those that contain water. Level 2 tanks are those tanks that pose some risk, but not enough to warrant level 1 classification.

The rule states that only owners/operators of Level 1 tanks will be required to have these tanks inspected by a professional engineer. Owners/operators of Level 2 and 3 tanks will not need to have them inspected by a professional engineer. Instead, someone “holding certification under another program approved by the secretary,” will be deemed sufficient to inspect the tank. From the Charleston Daily Mail:

What’s being envisioned with the interpretive rule is that a program or programs for level two and level three aboveground storage tank inspection and certifications will be submitted to DEP for approval,” said Kelley Gillenwater, spokeswoman for the DEP.“The people (tank owners/operators or their designees) following that DEP-approved program would conduct the inspections and fill out the required checklist.

As of now, no standards for certification have been delineated or submitted for approval. After the Oct. 1 deadline for tank registration, the DEP will classify all registered tanks with an appropriate level. Based on tanks registered so far, 5% would be considered Level 1 tanks.

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