How to meet fuel containment regs

Mike Gartner, Mandan, N.D., has placed his fuel tanks in an 8-by-20-foot fiberglass cattle-watering tank that’s 3 feet deep to comply with new U.S. EPA oil spill containment regulations.

Key Points

Mike Gartner, Mandan, N.D., installed a fiberglass tank to contain fuel spills.

The tank puts Gartner in compliance with new U.S. EPA regulations.

The tank and certification for the project cost about $3,000.


As of November, farms and ranches established before August 2002 that have more than 1,320 gallons of fuel and/or oil in aboveground storage are required to have a containment system to prevent leaks or spills from getting into ground or surface waters.

If the farm or ranch was started after August 2002, the deadline for compliance is May 2013. Should Gartner’s fuel tanks leak or overflow, he’ll be able to pump the spilled fuel into a tank and take it to a disposal site.

Specific rules

The rules are pretty specific about how big a containment tank must be, says Roxanne Johnson, North Dakota State University Extension water-quality associate.

The secondary containment must be large enough to hold the capacity of the largest tank plus an amount for precipitation and displacement from the other tanks within the containment system, she says. A document online at www.ndsu.edu/waterquality can help you determine secondary tank size.

Gartner uses a submersible pump to remove the water that collects in the containment tank after a rain. He pumps the water into a spray tank. When enough water has been accumulated, he sprays the rainwater on the gravel road in front of the farm to keep down the dust.

A volunteer fireman, Gartner also mounted a fire extinguisher on a pole near the fuel tanks.

To comply with the new oil spill regulations, Gartner had an engineering firm certify that the containment system was adequate for his fuel storage. The whole project cost about $3,000.

Gartner figures it is money well-spent. He doesn’t want any fuel getting into the nearby creek. Not only would it harm the environment, but also his pocketbook. Under the new rules, he’d be responsible for paying to clean up the spill.

4 tips on complying with regs

Roxanne Johnson, North Dakota State University Extension water-quality associate, offers the following four tips on complying with the oil spill regulations:

Don’t put anything in your plan that you don’t have completed on the ground. For example, if you are writing up your plan and you intend on having the secondary containment completed in the spring of 2012, that is what you should write in your plan.

If you have more than 1,320 gallons of fuel/oil stored on your site, but you don’t believe an oil spill on your farm would impact water, document that with a topographic map showing that the tanks are in the low spot. Johnson still recommends filling out the first half dozen or so pages of a Tier I plan so that you have documented where the fuel/oil storage is located. It is also a good idea to have all phone numbers available in a handy location in case of an emergency.

Don’t over-engineer the secondary containment. If you have tight soils (over 35% clay), you may be able to use an earthen berm. This may not be feasible if you have a high water table. The idea is to stop the oil from getting to water, not to hold it for more than 72 hours.

All documents stay with you on the farm. They should not be sent into any agency unless you are receiving financial assistance through the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Environmental Quality Incentives Program.


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NO SPILL: A red fiberglass water tank will contain fuel that is spilled from or leaked out of the fuel storage tanks. The tank in the foreground holds rainwater that is collected in the tank and then pumped in a spray tank and applied to the gravel road.

This article published in the November, 2011 edition of DAKOTA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2011.