Underground Fuel Tanks: The Dangers Of Underground Fuel Storage

Envirosafe, a leading producer of above ground fuel tanks, knows that underground fuel storage tanks (or USTs) have been a staple of gas stations, fuel suppliers, and trucking fleets for years. Initially these tanks offered a convenient, space saving way to store large amounts of fuel. But today the preferred choice is a double-walled steel above ground fuel tank.

While underground tanks have been the norm for some time, several problems exist with them including:

  • Corrosion
  • Rusting
  • Leakage


The photos above are of a leaking and costly underground storage tank removal, caused the gas station to be shut down. EPA was involved and it is still inoperable at present.


Underground fuel and oil tanks rust, corrode, and can begin leaking, contaminating the environment – most notably water and soil.

Water and Soil Contamination. Almost half of the US population gets its drinking water from ground water sources; therefore, a leaking fuel tank presents a major health risk in contaminated areas.

Abandonment. Many companies choose to abandon their tanks when they relocate or switch to a different storage system.

Expense. Clean up operations for USTs are extremely expensive and require many hours of labor for thorough removal of petrochemicals from the site. Perhaps most importantly, fuel tank owners are legally responsible for any damages to the environment that may result from tank leakage or malfunction.  This means that a prolonged, undetected UST leak could leave the owner responsible for punitive damages and fees in addition to excavation, clean up, and tank repair costs.

Health Risks. The chemicals contained in gas are carcinogenic and can cause organ and nervous system damage.  A leak as small as ten gallons in an underground tank can contaminate approximately twelve million gallons of water.  That means a small leakage can impact an entire community.  These tanks house thousands of gallons of fuel, so a minor leak is almost unnoticeable to the owner.

Underground Fuel Tanks: The List of Potential Toxins

Typically, USTs contain some form of gas, so we have listed the most dangerous chemicals contained in gas.

  • Benzene – Benzene, a carcinogen, is gasoline’s most harmful compound.  The EPA’s Maximum Contaminant Level is five parts per billion.  Anything above that minute amount is considered harmful.
  • Toluene; ehylbenzene – MCLs are 1 and 0.7 parts per million.  Long-term exposure can result in organ and nervous system damage.
  • Xylenes – While not as hazardous as the above chemicals, they are still known to cause organ and nervous system damage.
  • Methyl tertiary butyl ether or MTBE – This chemical is used to decrease emissions.  Water contaminated with MTBEs in amounts as small as twenty parts per billion render it so foul tasting that it cannot be used.



Major Concerns of Leaking Underground Storage Tanks

  • Expense
  • Clean Up
  • Soil and Water Contamination
  • Health Risks – Cancer and organ damage
  • Legal Responsibility and Ramifications


The Expense of Underground Fuel Tanks

In addition to the high cost of clean up and removal, underground fuel tanks are more costly to operate.  This is because special precautions must be taken to prevent environmental contamination, particularly water contamination.  Many of the monitoring requirements of USTs are not required of aboveground storage tanks.

USTs require special considerations regarding tank materials, construction, overspill, and clean up.

Underground Fuel Tanks:

  • Must be constructed completely of non-corrodible material, such as fiberglass-reinforced plastic or steel with a corrosion resistant coating
  • The ground must be continually monitored for leakage
  • Must use well monitors, micropurging, or other techniques to regularly test for groundwater contamination
  • Require costly heavy equipment for excavation when leakages require repair


Above ground fuel storage tanks offer a safe alternative to the old way of storing fuel.  Above ground tanks offer easy access, inspection, filling, and dispensing with little worry of environmental contamination issues.

Our above ground tanks eliminate the worries of unseen corrosion and rust.  Routine maintenance checks are all that is needed.

Envirosafe offers the highest quality above ground fuel storage tanks available today including:


Contact us today for a preliminary quote and specific site and storage information and see exactly why an Envirosafe above ground fuel storage tank is a superior solution to traditional below ground fuel storage.


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