In 2018, DEQ’s Petroleum Tank Cleanup Section confirmed 25 new petroleum releases. This number is down 18 from the 43 new releases that were confirmed in 2017. However, as shown in Figure 1 below, the number of new releases confirmed each year has fluctuated over the last decade with a low of 20 in 2010 to a high of 43 in 2017. No upward or downward trend is apparent in this data, and the average number of new releases per year during this timeframe is 31.
Figure 1. Number of new releases confirmed each year from 2009 through 2018.
Figure 2 shows the type of products released in 2018; these are similar to releases observed in previous years, with diesel and gasoline comprising most of the product released and heating oil being the third most common product released. In previous years, waste oil, hydraulic fluid, jet fuel, aviation gasoline, turbine oil, fuel additives, and a few other substances have been released as well.
Figure 2. Fuel Types Released in 2018. The number of releases totals more than 25 because two releases contained two or more product types.
The source of the 25 releases are broken out into five categories as shown in Figure 3. Three of the categories include general parts of the tank systems: tanks, their connected pumps and piping, and the dispenser islands. Delivery problems indicate releases associated with fuel tankers delivering product to a facility. The fifth category, historic contamination, means that the releases originated from historic (pre-1998) tank systems.
Figure 3. Chart showing a generalized breakdown of sources from which petroleum releases originated in 2018.
While the source of the release pertains to the part of a fuel system from which a release occurred, the cause of the release indicates what went wrong. Looking at the sources of the 25 new releases confirmed in 2018, we can see that only four releases were attributed to pre-1998 tank systems. However, when we look at what went wrong, 13 releases were caused by historic activities that cannot be precisely identified and therefore are not discussed further. The 12 remaining releases definitively caused in 2018 can be attributed to three causes: physical damage to tank systems, tank equipment failure, and human error. This breakdown is shown in Figure 4.
Figure 4. Chart showing the three major causes of petroleum releases that occurred in 2018.
One important takeaway from this data is that people are the biggest cause of new releases. Please ensure that operators and attendants are ready to respond to spills. Below are some other reminders based on previous years’ lessons learned:
- Equipment wears out from age and normal wear and tear.
- Ensure that your leak detection equipment is functioning properly, is tested per regulations, and that you address any alarms immediately.
- Install and test liquid-tight secondary containment associated with piping, submersible turbine pumps, dispensers, and other system parts.
- Functional parts of your system, such as dispenser hoses, may not be monitored by your line leak detectors.
- Ask your equipment installer or inspector if yours are monitored.
- Consider upgrading your UST systems to secondarily contained piping and tanks.
- Suspected petroleum releases must be reported to DEQ within 24 hours of discovery.
- DEQ’s petroleum release reporting hotline may be reached at (800) 457-0568. After hours and on weekends, releases must be reported by calling the Disaster and Emergency Services duty officer at (406) 324-4777. For more information on release reporting, please see DEQ’s website: http://deq.mt.gov/Land/lust/faqs
- Don’t risk an ongoing leak.
- Don’t jeopardize your Petroleum Tank Release Compensation Fund reimbursement by failing to properly report releases.