It is relatively common to have underground petroleum tanks on industrial or light industrial sites, due to historical business activities (such as a service station that changes business to a restaurant). When a property changes hands, is redeveloped or tanks reach 'end of life' it is often the first time they might be noticed or considered, this is often driven by regulatory requirements.

Environmental management of Underground Petroleum Storage Systems (UPSS) varies between all states in Australia from a regulatory perspective, however, the environmental and liability effects are quite similar nationally and globally.

Underground tanks, fuel lines and joints are known to leak, and the fuel can contaminate both soil and groundwater as the UPSS is already underground.

A typical total cost for the removal of a few underground storage tanks and cleaning up a small volume of soil used for property transactions and business acquisitions is $150,000.   This may be considerably reduced if the tanks do not require physical removal. However, the cost significantly increases for the removal of multiple underground storage tanks (USTs) and in the presence of significantly contaminated groundwater. In such cases, the cost can exceed $1M (million dollars), especially in instances where contamination that has migrated offsite to sensitive receptors and areas. Costs are often built in a property contract of sale and are highly dependant on an initial investigation. iEnvi recommends a ground penetrating radar (GPR) scan with an experienced services locator, and initial investigation of soil and groundwater (often $15k to $20k or less if there are existing wells) to determine the cost of decommissioning and remediating a UPSS.

It is heartbreaking as a consultant to speak with small business owners, who haven’t had the education on the cleanup costs or risks, and have had their small business/property in mind for their retirement savings to find out the value is significantly reduced due to the contamination liability.

EPA bodies do not accept a lack of knowledge relating to underground storage tank fuel leakage and contamination risk as a defensible reason for non-compliance defence.  If you have underground storage tanks, you have the responsibility to ensure they aren’t leaking by monitoring and testing or to clean up/remediate the site and assess the environmental risk if they have leaked.

The longer you have leaking tanks, pipes or UPSS infrastructure, the higher the cost of cleanup and lower your property value will be, and higher the risk of regulators imposing significant fines or cleanup notices requiring immediate actions.

iEnvi offers a 24 hour site reporting service backed by highly qualified scientists and reporters from across the globe. iEnvi recently provided a preliminary site investigation and groundwater monitoring reports for a petrol station redevelopment on an extremely tight deadline.At iEnvironmental Australia we help our clients reduce the risk associated with fuel tanks by the following:

  • tank and fuel line testing to pressure testing;
  • review of SIRA data;
  • soil and groundwater investigation and sampling to test for leakage;
  • compliance and advice of state regulation;
  • assistance with property sale/purchase, valuation and risk associated with UPSS contamination;
  • fuel system management plans;
  • compliance review;
  • underground tank/UPSS removal and validation; and
  • contaminated soil, soil vapour and groundwater remediation and management strategies for the best commercial and compliant outcome.
  • remediation without the removal of the tanks (this is often an acceptable option where structures and services may be damaged if removal were to take place).

An example of our services is a rural petrol station that became a restaurant, over time it changed hands several times. We were able to work with the owners each step of the way.

Please get in contact with us to discuss your individual circumstances.


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