The Signs of Microbial Growth in a Storage Tank

Microbial growth in a storage tank has the potential to create big problems if left unchecked. Plus, the presence of microbes in a storage tank already confirms the existence of another problem: water in the tank. We’ve talked a lot of water and storage tanks in our recent blogs, including how water gets in, how to detect water in a tank, and how to prevent it from entering in the first place.

In this week’s blog, we’re going to focus on microbial growth. Keep on reading to learn more about what microbes can do to a storage tank and its contents, and how to prevent microbial growth in the tank.


Microbial growth in a storage tank can negatively affect the quality of the fuel dispensed, as well as the engine that uses it.


Microbial Growth in a Storage Tank

How does microbial growth start?

Microbial growth can only occur if there is water in the tank. Even a small number of microbes can grow into a thriving colony if there is sufficient moisture. Microbes live in the boundary between the water and fuel. As they eat away at the fuel, they create slime and sludge as byproducts.

What do microbes do to a storage tank?

  • Contaminate fuel, which could lead to problems in vehicles that use the fuel.
  • Create slime and sludge that can degrade tank components.
  • Clog fuel lines and filters.
  • Cause incorrect gauge readings.
  • Corrosion.

What are the signs of microbial growth in a storage tank?

  • Filter life shorter than 6 months.
  • Reduction of fuel flow to 3-5 gallons per minute.
  • Clogged fuel lines.
  • Unusual gauge readings
  • Valves, rubber seals, and hoses needing to be replaced more frequently than usual.
  • Odor of rotten eggs (byproduct of microbes digesting fuel).
  • Problems with vehicles that use fuel from the tank, including unusual exhaust smoke and plugged fuel filters.

Detecting microbial growth

Field detection kits can be used to detect microbial growth in a storage tank with a high level of accuracy.

Removal of microbes and prevention of growth

To remove microbes, you’ll need to contact a professional contamination control contractor. The tank will be cleaned to remove microbes and their slime and sludge. To prevent future growth, the contractor will treat the tank with a biocide.

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