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UST Operator Training and Loss Identification – What You Need to Know

October 18, 2017

On August 8, 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) enacted the Underground Storage Tank Compliance Act (USTCA) as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The purpose of the USTCA was to give the USEPA authority to regulate and govern underground storage tank (UST) systems. Section 9010 of this act states that individual states must comply with this act and provide training to the owner and operator (O/O) of a UST system. The act designates three (3) “Classes” of operators which include Operator A, B and C classes; all of which have specific responsibilities. The focus of this act is on prevention of releases and the early detection of a suspected release. This act applies to all regulated UST systems which store hazardous substances.

According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, all O/O must designate Class A/B operators and ensure training for all classes by October 13, 2018. Each class is required to complete training in accordance with USEPA and NJDEP regulations prior to designation. A list of facility Class C operator shall be maintained at the facility. O/O’s of regulated heating oil tanks may be subject to the rules of this act; however, this is up to the discretion of each individual state (NJDEP includes these UST systems).

UST Operator Class Responsibilities

Class A

Class A operators must attend a training program and pass an examination to demonstrate their understanding of UST system operation and maintenance. Class A operators are responsible for resources, personnel management and record maintenance (UST system information, UST registration and insurance). Class A operators are responsible for maintaining sufficient absorbent materials to contain a release/spill and be trained in emergency response actions. Following the identification of a release or suspected release, Class A operators are responsible for fulfilling reporting requirements. Additional notification purposes include the following: ownership transfer, substantial modification, change in material stored, Class A/B designation change notification, and any change in UST status (closure, out of service, resuming service). Class A operators are responsible for ensuring Class C operators are properly trained. Class A Operators can be designated at multiple facilities and can be a third party contractor.

Class B

Class B operators, similar to class A operators, must attend a training program and pass an examination to demonstrate their understanding of UST system operation and maintenance. Class B operators should have a greater understanding of UST system components and are responsible for implementing UST regulatory requirements, ensuring the equipment is operating to standards, daily operations, maintenance and recordkeeping. Class B operators should be proficient in release prevention/detection methods and be trained to respond to a release/suspected release. Class B operators are often responsible for training Class C operators. Class B operators can be designated at multiple facilities and can be a third party contractor.

Class C

Class C operators are not required to attend a training program; however, they must be trained by a Class A/B operator and demonstrate basic understanding and identification of a release condition. Class C operators control the sale of regulated substances, performs daily site inspections, should be trained to respond to a release, suspected release or spill, know where the emergency shut off is or be able to eliminate power to the source of the leak (dispenser/turbine pump), respond appropriately to a surface spill and be able to accurately notify emergency personnel.

Additional Responsibilities for Facility Owners and Operators

Investigation within seven (7) days of a suspected release

Class A/B operators should be able to identify a suspected release condition which may include the following: failed leak detection test(s), fuel alarm activated, containment sump alarm activated, interstitial space alarm activated, inventory discrepancies, consecutive inconclusive inventory test results, negative inventory trends, overfill alarm activated, highwater alarm activated, sudden loss of product, unexplained water in the UST system, pressure loss in dispensing equipment, leak detection “tripped”, evidence of hazardous substance in surrounding media, an observed overfill, damaged/compromised spill containment and or release during fueling operations. An O/O response to any of these should include an evaluation of the monitoring system(s), inventory record review, visual inspection of all accessible components, and repeating failed tests. A subsurface investigation is required if evidence of a release is discovered during UST system evaluation. A suspected release condition, assessment actions and remedy must be documented and maintained at the facility. 

Ensuring that all site inspections are performed

Site inspections include daily and monthly inspections and inspection records must be maintained onsite. Daily inspections are usually performed by a Class C operator and should include the following: visual assessment of accessible UST system components, ensure no alarms are activated, no leaks are present at the dispensers, spill buckets are clear before and after delivery, document any actions taken to remedy identified issues and notify Class A/B operators if an issue is identified. Monthly inspections must be performed by Class A/B operators and include ensuring the monitoring system is functional, monthly release detection is compliant, spill containment sump are functional, vapor recovery and corrosion protection systems are functional, containment sumps are free of product, water, debris and ensure unusual operating conditions are reported.

Unmanned Facilities

Some facilities operate as unmanned facilities and include facilities which contain an inactive emergency backup UST system or are open to dispense fuel when an employee is not present. These unmanned facilities must maintain records of testing onsite for USEPA and state inspectors and should include all calibration, maintenance, and repair records. Additionally, visible signs must be posted listing the O/O, emergency response numbers and have an accessible emergency shut off.

UST Operator Requirements

The USTCA requires each Class operator possess an understanding of a UST system operation/maintenance, leak detection components, the possible causes of an alarm and release response actions. The requirement to train personnel operating and maintaining a UST system should provide additional support to a facility O/O. The increased number of individuals trained in UST system operation and identification of a release/suspected release conditions may result in an increase of state agency reportable incidents. As such, VERTEX anticipates that an increase in facility claims may result from the USTCA class system due to the identification of suspected release conditions by Class operators and subsequent regulatory requirement to investigate. Required inspections may also benefit the O/O whereas a release condition may be identified by a Class operator earlier than previous facility operations and/or may prevent catastrophic losses which were previously undetected. Although the required date to designate class operators is set for October 2018, it appears that many O/O have begun to fulfill training requirements and are aware of the pending changes.

To learn more about VERTEX’s Environmental Consulting services or to speak with an Environmental Expert, call 888.298.5162 or submit an inquiry.


U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

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