Underground and aboveground storage tanks constitute a serious pollution risk.

o   Tanks, pipes, and fittings may leak.
o   Leaks may not be detected for a long time.
o   Very small leaks can contaminate a large area of soil and groundwater.

Although many industrial and commercial storage tanks have been removed, many others remain in the ground. Of particular concern are old tanks for agricultural and personal use for which records are sketchy or nonexistent. Contaminants from storage tanks include hydrocarbons, especially gasoline, solvents, and other organic chemicals, some of which are known or suspected carcinogens.

Commercial and industrial sources

Above ground storage tanks (ASTs) are tanks or other containers that are above the ground, partially buried or in subterranean vaults. ASTs can include floating fuel systems.

  • Source Water Protection Practices Bulletin: Managing Above Ground Storage Tanks to Prevent Contamination of Drinking Water (PDF) (4pp, 167K)
  • Underground storage tanks (USTs) are tanks and any related underground piping that have at least 10 percent of their combined volume underground. Over 93 percent of USTs contain petroleum.

    Leaking underground storage tanks (LUST) have the potential to contaminate drinking water and soil, cause vapor intrusion issues, foul surface water and cause other environmental pollution.

    With over 20,000 underground storage tanks in Pennsylvania, even a small percentage leaking can cause big environmental issues. The state has averaged about 225 confirmed releases per year over the past four years (2010 – 2014).

    The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is charged with working with responsible parties when releases occur in the Commonwealth to ensure that contamination is remediated to a regulatory cleanup standard in accordance with the Clean Streams Law, Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act and the Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act (Act 2). The Corrective Action Process establishes the steps for such cleanups.

    Residential Home Heating Oil Tanks

    Home heating oil releases can result from leaks, spills, overfills or heating system  malfunctions. When released indoors, heating oil can damage both your home and its contents, and can cause health problems.

    When released into the environment, heating oil can pollute drinking water supplies, contaminate soils and expose you to liability if neighboring properties are affected by the release. Heating oil releases can also be expensive to clean up. Prompt action to stop, contain and clean up a heating oil release can greatly reduce or eliminate adverse impacts to your property, your health, the environment and your wallet. Click for information on the Underground Heating Oil Tank Cleanup Reimbursement Program


    EPA Resources

    PADEP Resources

    Pennsylvania DEP Storage Tank website

    For more information, contact the Storage Tank Cleanup Program in Harrisburg at 717-783-9475, the Environmental Cleanup Program in a local DEP regional office, or email tankcleanup@dep.state.pa.us.

    List of  Storage Tank Release and Cleanup Locations

    DEP Fact Sheets:

    Other Resources

    Ordinance to protect Public Water Supply: College Township, Centre County, PA – Ordinance to Regulate the location of Storage Tanks, Dispensing Area Design Standards  and Physical Barrier Protection.  Click to view Ordinance.


    “Are Fuel Storage Tank Owners Compliant and Vigilant?”

    Developed by the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission (NEIWPCC), this colorful and informative source water protection resource for municipal officials and community volunteers is helpful to communities and water systems anywhere.

    Called Water Today…Water Tomorrow?: Protecting Drinking Water Sources in Your Community: Tools for Municipal Officials, this source water protection call-to-action consists of an action-packed 52-page manual plus a series of five companion fact sheets.

    It focuses on five key areas of vulnerability identified in New England state Source Water Assessments:

    • inadequate local regulations and ordinances
    • underground storage tanks
    • onsite sewage disposal systems
    • hazardous materials storage
    • and stormwater runoff.

    The document provides municipal officials with tools they can use to take action in their communities to protect drinking water sources. It also includes several short case examples from states and communities.

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