Occasionally when people prepare to sell rarely used property, previously unknown underground storage tanks are discovered. Often, a tank edge will be partially exposed and there may be a pipe sticking out of the ground. These are good indications that an underground storage tank has been found.
n underground storage tank as defined by 75-11-503, Montana Code Annotated, is a tank, or a combination of tanks, used to contain a regulated substance, the volume of which is 10% or more beneath the surface of the ground. An UST also includes any underground pipes connected to a storage tank used to contain or transport a regulated substance whether the tank is entirely above ground, partially above ground, or entirely underground.
If an UST is discovered, call the DEQ Underground Storage Tank program and get a permit to remove the tank from the ground. If, during tank removal it looks like the tank leaked, notify the DEQ Petroleum Tank Cleanup Section. If the program determines that a release of petroleum has occurred, there may be assistance available through the Petroleum Tank Release Compensation Board’s Petroleum Tank Release Cleanup Fund.
Establishing a “found” or “discovered” tank takes more than claiming it as such. It strains credulity to call a tank a “found” tank if:
- The tank is partly above ground, including the fill pipe, and clearly visible.
- The tank is connected to piping that runs into the building and is connected to a furnace.
- There is history of a furnace previously used to heat the building.
If the tank contains any amount of a regulated substance, such as petroleum, the regulated substance must be removed. For a tank to have been properly closed-in–place, all liquids must have been removed from the tank and the tank filled with an inert substance, such as sand. If there is no liquid in the tank and the tank is not part of an active dispensing system, the system may be determined to be properly closed; however, an owner may still want to remove the tank A licensed professional can assist an owner with obtaining a permit and properly disposing the tank.
In order for a “found” tank to be eligible for the Petro Fund, owners/operators must apply to DEQ for a tank closure permit within 30 days of the date upon which the owner first had knowledge of the tank. They must also close the tank in accordance with the requirements of the permit before the permit expires.