Indiana Farmstead Assessment for Drinking Water Protection

Fuel Handling & Water Storage

Introduction Fuel handling Above ground tanks Under ground tanks Reporting leaks or spills Authors Contacts & References What to read Sources

Fuel Handling & Waste Storage Survey


Fuel spills and leaks pose a serious threat to human health and environmental quality. One gallon of gasoline will make 1 million gallons of water unsafe to drink. Furthermore, if an underground fuel spill moves onto neigh-boring property, the owner of the property where the spill originated is legally liable for damages. Cleanup of fuel-contaminated soil and water canbe extremely difficult and expensive. It is best to take precautions to ensure that spills or leaks do not occur. This fact sheet provides basic guidelines forreducing the potential risk of water contamination from handling and storage of fuel such as diesel, gasoline and home heating oil.

Fuel handling

Small spills during fuel transfer are bound to occur from time to time. Petroleum fuel evaporates rapidly at the land surface; however fuel readily seeps into the soil. Local geology and soil type determines how quickly fuel may reach groundwater supplies. Once in the groundwater environment, fuel is relatively stable, making it difficult to clean up. Even small spills or leaks in the same place over time are a potential threat to water resources. To reduce potential leaks and spills during fuel transfer:

Above ground tanks (ASTs)

The use of ASTs in recent years has become the preferred choice forstoring gasoline, propane, heating oil, and diesel on farms. ASTs provide easy access and greater opportunity to observe and monitor tanks that may be leaking as compared to underground tanks. However, placement of tanks above the ground requires that tanks be protected from impact by farm equipment and personal vehicles. In the rare event of an explosion, ASTs need to be placed as far as possible from livestock facilities and from the farmhouse.

A farmer spending some time on the properplacement of a new tank or implementing safety procedures to an existing tank can greatly reduceany risks associated with an AST. Following are specific points that should be addressed whenconducting an assessment of your ASTs.

All aboveground tanks with a capacitygreater than 660 gallons or a group of tanks that can store more than 1,320 gallons is required tocomply with the following regulations:

Underground tanks (USTs)

The Indiana Department of EnvironmentalManagement (IDEM) currently has registered over 15,000 USTs and estimates that about 23percent of these are leaking (IDEM UST Guidance Manual).

A primary factor is the age of the tank andthe type of material. Older tanks made of unprotected steel are subject to corrosion that weakens the tank walls and seams, eventually causing a leak. Steel tanks need special corrosion protectionprior to installation. If your steel UST is more than 20 years old, strongly consider replacing the tank with a new UST or an AST.

Another factor is the placement of the UST.Avoid highly corrosive or wet soils. Do not select a site near a water supply, or where there is standing water or the water table is close to the surface at any time during the year.

All USTs with capacity greater than 1,100 gallons (in single or multiple-tank facilities):

Regular monitoring of the fuel level in yourstorage tanks helps to detect leaks quickly. A leak as small as one drop per second can release 900gallons of fuel into the environment annually. You can easily spot leaks in an AST by noting afuel spot on the tank or dead vegetation on the ground below the tank. If you suspect a leak hasdeveloped in an UST, immediately contact a certified tank contractor for assistance. Specialsampling may be required to determine the extent of the leak and cleanup procedures.

Take the following steps to prevent leaks:

USTs can be "officially closed" in threeways: 1) removed from the ground, 2) closed in place, and 3) converted to another use. If you have an unregulated UST (capacity of 1,100 gallons or less), no special requirements apply;however, it is recommended to seek the advice of a certified tank contractor, be certain that no soil contamination has occurred and follow practices consistent with the Indiana Fire Protection Code.

Closure of USTs with a capacity of greaterthan 1,100 gallons is regulated by IDEM and requires pre-approval by IDEM, a site assess-ment, and supervision by a certified tank contractor. Contact a certified tank contractor formore information about storage tank design.

Reporting leaks or spills

A fuel leak or spill that threatens to damagepublic health or the waters of the state must immediately be reported to IDEM, Office ofEnvironmental Response telephone 317/233-7745 (24 hours). This requirement is for both regulatedand nonregulated ASTs and USTs. The fuel owner is also required to notify the nearest downstreamwater user and to contain the spill. You may also want to call the local fire department and emer-gency planning committee.


Terri Swoveland
Mark Basch
Sarah Brichford
Cheri Janssen

Contacts and References

General information

	USEPA Region 5
	77 W. Jackson Boulevard 
	Chicago, IL  60604 

	Office of the Fire Marshal
	Fire & Building Services
	1099 N. Meridian Street
	Indianapolis, IN 

	Purdue University
	Cooperative Extension  
	888/EXT-INFO or local office

	Local fire department 

	Local certified tank contractors 

Aboveground fuel tanks and certified tankcontractors

	Department of Fire and Building Services
	Plan Review Division 
	Indianapolis, IN

Underground fuel tanks and environmental regulations

	Indiana Department of 
	Environmental Management 
	Underground Storage Tank (UST) Branch
	Indianapolis, IN  317/233-6419

	Purdue Pesticide Programs
	1155 Lilly Hall 
	West Lafayette, IN  47907-1155


	Indiana Department of
	Environmental Management
	Emergency Response Spill Line 
	888/233-7745 (toll free Indiana only)

What to read


Sources for the above references:

	1. Agricultural and Biological
	   Engineering Extension
	   1146 Agricultural and Biological
 	   Engineering Building 
	   West Lafayette, IN 47907-1146

	2. Indiana Department of
	   Environmental Management
	   Underground Storage Tank Branch
	   P.O. Box 7015 
	   N-1255, 100 N. Senate Ave.
	   Indianapolis, IN 46207-7015

	3. Center for Technology Tranfer and
	   Pollution Prevention
	   1146 Agricultural and Biological
	   Engineering Building Purdue University
	   West Lafayette, IN 47907-1146 

Petroleum Handling and Storage Fact Sheet and Survey were developed by
Sam Parsons, Extension Agricultural Engineer, Department of
Agricultural and Biological Engineering; Sarah Brichford, Extension
Water Quality Specialist, Department of Agronomy; and Fred Whitford,
Coordinator, Purdue Pesticide Programs.

Editor:  Cheri Janssen, Department of Agronomy

For Survey Sheet 4, Click Below:

Fuel Handling & Waste Storage Survey

Reviewed 5/1/01

It is the policy of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service, David C. Petritz, Director, that all persons shall have equal opportunity and access to its programs and facilities without regard to race, color, sex, religion, national origin, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, or disability. Purdue University is an Affirmative Action employer. This material may be available in alternative formats. 1-888-EXT-INFO.