Recent changes to Virginia’s environmental laws mean new rules for aboveground storage tanks containing hazardous materials. Tank owners now have additional responsibilities—for example, tank registration and having a discharge response plan. There are stiff financial and legal penalties for non-compliance.
If your business stores hazardous materials in aboveground tanks, it’s imperative you understand and comply with the new regulations.
The New Rules in Brief
The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is responsible for implementing laws and regulations to protect and preserve Virginia’s environmental resources.
The DEQ’s new regulations for hazardous substance aboveground storage tanks apply to tanks with a capacity of more than 1,320 gallons. The regulations do not include oil as a “hazardous substance” as existing guidelines cover oil.
In Senate Bill 626, you’ll find the full text of the regulations, which establishes the requirements for tank owners and directs the State Water Control Board to administer and enforce penalties.
The new rules are roughly divided into three sections:
- Responsibilities of tank owners
- Responsibilities of the State Water Control Board
- The creation of a Hazardous Substance Aboveground Storage Tank Fund
Responsibilities of Tank Owners
A “tank owner” refers to the person or organization responsible for an aboveground storage tank (AST). This section applies to anyone who owns, operates, or rents a tank to accumulate a hazardous substance.
“Hazardous materials” are those known to be harmful to human health and the environment. There’s a list of recognized hazardous substances in the Code of Federal Regulations (40 CFR part 261).
Many businesses use hazardous materials in day-to-day operations. For instance:
- Dry cleaning – tetrachloroethylene
- Vermin control – dichlorobenzene
- Leather processing – toluene
- Paper and textile processing – cyanide
- Vehicle parts manufacturing – lead
Whether a business is big or small, managing hazardous substances is a responsibility that comes with strict standards and guidelines.
Owners are required to register their eligible ASTs with the DEQ and pay the corresponding registration fee. The owner needs to provide details about the tank’s date of installation, capacity, material of construction, current or predominant contents, and other relevant information.
Registration fees range from $150 to $600, depending on the size of the tank.
Demonstrate financial responsibility
A release of harmful substances may cause extensive damage, and the proper remediation could be expensive. A registered AST owner must prove they can take financial responsibility for the potential cost of containment, cleanup, and remediation.
Acceptable proof of financial responsibility can be insurance, self-insurance, guaranty, or surety.
Develop a release response plan
If an owner’s total AST capacity is 25,000 gallons or more, they must create a release response plan and submit it to the DEQ for approval. The plan must establish a quick response to hazardous substance discharge and protection for environmentally sensitive areas.
The DEQ may require a demonstration to prove an owner can implement their plan.
Responsibilities of State Water Control Board
The new AST regulations name the State Water Control Board as their administrator. As of July 1st, 2022, the Board is in charge of:
- Managing tank registration, including requirements, fees, and renewals
- Setting standards for tank construction and inspection
- Establishing secondary containment requirements
- Taking action and/or requiring a tank owner to take action in the event of a hazardous substance release
- Determining fines and penalties
Hazardous Substance Aboveground Storage Tank Fund
The new AST rules prescribe the creation of the Hazardous Substance Aboveground Storage Tank Fund. The Fund is to support the administration of the new state-wide AST rules.
When a tank owner pays their tank registration fee, it is credited to the Fund. The money covers the State Water Control Board’s costs as they carry out their responsibilities as per the regulations.
Penalties and Violations
Violating environmental regulations carries heavy penalties. According to the new AST rules, tank owners are liable for thousands of dollars in non-compliance fines.
Failure to register an AST – $1,000-$50,000
Failure to obtain approval for a discharge response plan – $1,000-$50,000
Failure to demonstrate financial responsibility – $1,000-$100,000
Besides these initial fines, a tank owner is liable for an additional $5,000 per day until they meet compliance conditions.
Knowingly violating regulations, including submitting false information to the Board or DEQ, is punishable by jail time, a fine of $100,000, or both.
Total Environmental Concepts Helps Support Compliance
If you manage hazardous substance aboveground storage tanks, our team of professionals can support your plan to meet Virginia’s new AST regulations.
As one of the Mid-Atlantic’s premier environmental consulting companies, we specialize in full-service environmental management, and our experience spans a variety of industries. We’re here to help companies thrive while keeping compliant with all environmental regulations and guidelines.