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Field Guide to Underground Storage Tanks (USTs)

(Updated November 2013)

"An underground storage tank system is a tank and any underground piping connected to the tank that has at least 10 percent of its combined volume underground. [Federal U.S. underground storage tank] regulations apply to only underground tanks and piping storing either petroleum or certain hazardous substances."

(Basic Information About the Underground Storage Tank Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Nov. 17, 2009).

Why are underground storage tanks regulated by the U.S. government? As with any liquid-containing vessel, USTs have the ability to degrade and wear over time, in turn causing leaks. These leaks can pose substantial public health and safety risks, ranging from contaminating the groundwater that many Americans rely on for drinking water, to potential fire or explosion risk.

(Overview of the Federal UST Program, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Apr. 2, 2010)

(K. Stockert, Information and Web Content Specialist)


(Sources: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s FY 2011 Annual Report on the Underground Storage Tank Program and UST Program Facts, Mar. 2013).

Facts About USTs

• The EPA’s recorded 510,733 UST releases since the UST program’s start
• Of the 510,733 reported USTS, the EPA has cleaned up 430,040
• The EPA’s UST program has 80,693 UST sites left to clean up

Source: EPA’s Semiannual Report of UST Performance Measures Mid Fiscal Year 2013


The Basics of Underground Storage Tanks  

Leaking Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund, (Treasury Bulletin, June 2013). Q

Researchers from University of Rhode Island Publish New Studies and Findings in the Area of Risk Management, (Insurance Weekly News, Feb. 2013). Q

Sources of Groundwater Contamination, (The Groundwater Foundation).

A Basic Checklist for USTs, (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, July 21, 2009).

10 Questions Buyers Should Ask the Home Inspector, (REALTOR® Magazine, n.d.).

Insuring your underground storage tanks, (Realty Times, Nov. 24, 2004).

Re-lining underground fuel tanks to protect drinking water, (Realty Times, June 10, 2004).

Soil testing a common step in early stages of a project, (Triangle Business Journal, Apr. 28, 2003).

Upkeep for USTs, (National Petroleum News, May 2002). Q


Information for REALTORS® 

Underground Storage Tanks Affect Purchase, Sale of Older Homes in Oregon, (Daily Journal of Commerce, Dec. 2012). Q

Identifying Clients' Environmental Loss Exposures, (American Agent & Broker, Feb. 2006). Q

A Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Environmental Contamination and Positive Amenities on Residential Real Estate Values, (The Journal of Real Estate Research, Jan.-Mar. 2006). Q

Surveys, market interviews, and environmental stigma, (The Appraisal Journal, Fall 2004). Q

Effect of previous environmental contamination on industrial real estate prices, (The Appraisal Journal, Apr. 2001). Q


Insurance & Liability Issues

NAR State Issues Tracker. See topic “Sellers Required Disclosures” for information on state disclosure requirements (Realtor.org login is required).

List of Known Insurance Providers for Underground Storage Tanks, (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, June 2009).

Florida Regulation Presses Underground Storage Tank Issue: Insurance in Jeopardy, (National Underwriter, P & C, May 18, 2009).  Q

Home Is Where the Risk Is, (Rough Notes, Dec. 2007). Q

Research Finds Homeowners Plagued by Thousands of Leaking Underground Storage Tanks, (RISMedia, Apr. 26, 2007). 


Government & Non-Profit Organizations

Federal Government Resources

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provided $200 million in funding to the EPA for cleaning up underground storage tank leaks. Much of this funding is funneled to state environmental agencies for cleanup oversight and management.

State Government Resources

Many U.S. states have environmental departments or commissions. These departments can be a great source of information on state specific compliance and disclosure requirements.

For example, the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality published a booklet, Real Estate Professionals and Underground Storage Tanks, in May 2002. The Maryland Department of the Environment also published a document, There's An Underground Storage Tank on the Property, on Jan. 27, 2010.

To identify a state-run department in your state, check out the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's State Environmental Agencies web page.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Underground Storage Tanks 
Phone: 703-603-9900
Email OUST
1220 Pennsylvania Ave, NW, Mail Code 5401P
Washington, DC  20460

Environmental Council of the States (a non-profit association of state and territorial environmental agency leaders)
Phone: 202-624-3666
Email Environmental Council of the States
444 North Capital Street NW, Ste. 445
Washington, DC 20001

The Groundwater Foundation (a non-profit, non-government affiliated organization)
Phone: 800-858-4844
email: Email Groundwater Foundation
P.O. Box 22558
Lincoln, NE 68542-2558


Research on Your Own

To search for the most recent articles on this topic, login to NAR's ProQuest account and enter subject terms such as:

  • Environmental impact and storage tanks
    • Enter into ProQuest text box as SU(environmental impact) AND storage tanks
  • Insurance coverage and storage tanks
    • Enter into ProQuest text box as SU(insurance coverage) AND storage tanks

eBooks & Other Resources

eBooks.realtor.org

The following eBooks and digital audiobooks are available to NAR members:

Complete Book of Insurance (Adobe eReader)

How to Insure Your Home (Adobe eReader)

Land Use Law for Sustainable Development (Adobe eReader)

Pollution & Property (Adobe eReader)

Books, Videos, Research Reports & More

The resources below are available for loan through Information Central. Up to three books, tapes, CDs and/or DVDs can be borrowed for 30 days from the Library for a nominal fee of $10. Call Information Central at 800-874-6500 for assistance.

Powerlines, docks, underground storage tanks... ignore at your own risk, (Florida REALTOR®, Apr. 2003, p. 26-31).

Fixtures—oil storage tanks are personal property of tenant rather than fixtures entitling tenant to relocation payments, (National Property Law Digests, Jan. 2000, p. 7-8).

Green Building and Sustainable Development: The Practical Legal Guide

Powerlines, docks, underground storage tanks... ignore at your own risk, (Florida REALTOR®, Apr. 2003, p. 26-31).

Fixtures—oil storage tanks are personal property of tenant rather than fixtures entitling tenant to relocation payments, (National Property Law Digests, Jan. 2000, p. 7-8).

Field Guides & More

These field guides and other resources in the Virtual Library may also be of interest:

Field Guide to Dealing With Stigmatized Properties  

Field Guide to Effects of Hazardous Waste on Property Values

InfoCentral Blog


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The inclusion of links on this field guide does not imply endorsement by the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR makes no representations about whether the content of any external sites which may be linked in this field guide complies with state or federal laws or regulations or with applicable NAR policies. These links are provided for your convenience only and you rely on them at your own risk.