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How to prevent contamination of water resources when using aboveground fuel tanks

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Aboveground fuel tanks are commonly used by farms, refineries and other industries to store petroleum products such as fuel, diesel, heating oil and lubricants.  

Installed aboveground on a supporting structure such as a stand or a tripod, some of these fuel tanks may also be partially buried or bunkered. These fuel tanks are considered safer than underground installations as they minimise the risk of undetected corrosion and leakage that can contaminate the environment.  

But aboveground fuel tanks also need to be continuously monitored and maintained to prevent spills from holes caused by corrosion, failure of piping systems, overfills, equipment failure and personnel error. Leakage from fuel tanks in any quantity can contaminate the environment, especially precious water resources.  

In the event of spills, the petroleum products may accumulate in the soil and flow into a water resource during a storm runoff, leading to destruction of aquatic habitats and contamination of drinking water.  

Therefore, tank management and maintenance are critical requirements for aboveground fuel tanks to ensure the safety of water resources.  

Key tips on managing aboveground fuel tanks to prevent contamination of water resources:  

Consider the location of the fuel tank

Aboveground fuel tanks must be installed well away from water sources including wells, streams, ponds, rivers and sewers. Factors such as volume of material stored, drainage patterns, distance to surface water and weather conditions must also be considered to prevent any spills from flowing towards a water source.  

Never overfill the fuel tank

Tank refilling must comply with standard filling practices. Spills must be avoided by filling only up to the tank’s holding capacity. A self bunded tank is recommended as its double steel walls effectively contain any leakage from the tank, preventing it from spilling through and contaminating the soil and water. Self bunded tanks or double walled tanks also provide greater protection against corrosion.  

Regularly monitor the fuel tank

Aboveground fuel tanks must be regularly inspected for leaks. In addition to having the fittings and gaskets inspected by a professional engineer after installation, any welding work done must be inspected to ensure its quality. The integrity of the tank should also be tested on a regular basis by a qualified professional.  

Regularly clean the tank and containment area

Keeping the fuel tank site clean prevents unwanted dirt and contaminant build-up. Regular clean-ups of the site including sweeping the containment area with a broom and using limited absorbent are advised. Any rainwater accumulated in the fuel tanks must be collected, checked for petroleum and chemicals before being disposed.  

Comply with Australian standards and regulations

Aboveground fuel tanks can be safely managed without causing any damage to the environment by strictly following Australian standards and regulations. Only fuel tanks designed and manufactured to Australian standards such as AS 1940-2004 and AS 1692-2006 must be installed.  

Compliance with guidelines published by related organisations such as the Australian Institute of Petroleum is also required. The local council can also provide environmental regulations for using an aboveground fuel tank.  

DTE Group  specialises in the supply of fuel storage tanks and fluid handling equipment.

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