It is estimated that there may be up to 20,000 underground storage tanks in the province of Ontario, with some still residing in residential rental properties. While many of these tanks provide safe and reliable fuel storage, as they age there is an increased potential for a variety of problems, such as holes or leaks in fuel lines. There are a number of tanks in the province that have been abandoned or their locations not clearly recorded. Ageing issues associated with these tanks can go undiscovered for months or years and may result in environmental contamination.
The hazards posed by these underground tanks coupled with the high costs associated with fixing them, have prompted most insurance companies to refuse to provide coverage for tanks that are more than 20 years old.
In response to the growing concerns surrounding these safety issues and the potential problems to the environment, the Technical Standards & Safety Authority (TSSA), an independent, not-for-profit company, with the responsibility for the delivery of a range of safety services in Ontario, introduced new provincial regulations in 2001 requiring all underground tanks to be registered with TSSA.
With the implementation of these new regulations distributors cannot supply fuel oil to underground tanks that have not been registered with TSSA. These regulations also call for all fuel oil heating systems to be inspected at least once every 10 years. The inspection process includes all visible components of underground and aboveground tanks, associated piping, venting, and heating appliances such as furnaces, boilers and water heaters. If repairs are needed, they must be completed before the tanks can be filled and used.
The regulations include a phased-in, multi-year program to upgrade or remove underground tanks. If the underground fuel tank was installed:
· 25 years ago or more The tank must be removed or upgraded by October 1, 2006
· 20 to 24 years ago The tank must be removed or upgraded by October 1, 2007
· 10 to 19 years ago The tank must be removed or upgraded by October 1, 2008
· Less than 1 year to 9 years ago The tank must be removed or upgraded by October 1, 2009
Owners of buried fuel oil tanks must also upgrade these tanks with leak and spill-protection equipment or have the tanks removed.
The first step in complying with these regulations is for owners to register their tanks with TSSA. By registering the tank, TSSA will be able to keep track of the location of underground fuel oil tanks in Ontario. This will help to better protect the environment from possible fuel oil leaks by ensuring that tanks that are in danger of leaking do not receive fuel oil.
To register your tank you must complete an Underground Fuel Oil Application Form and file it with TSSA. The application forms are available at www.tssa.org or by calling the TSSA Fuels Safety Program at 1-877-682-8772. Once the initial step of registration is completed, owners of underground fuel oil storage tanks must abide by the multi-year program outlined above, for the upgrade or removal of those tanks.
Failure to comply with these regulations could result in owners of the tanks facing costs associated with the clean up of contaminated soil or groundwater, should their tank leak. As well, noncompliance with any of the provisions within the regulation would constitute a provincial offence and on conviction the tank owner could face fines or imprisonment.
TSSA is working in co-operation with tank owners to ensure these new regulations can make spills and contamination in Ontario a thing of the past.