Underground petroleum storage systems

Underground petroleum storage systems (UPSS) or fuel tanks can leak, potentially contaminating the surrounding land and groundwater. This can create risks to both human health and the environment across NSW.

There are systems that operators must put in place to try and prevent theses leaks, and also obligations to report leaks if they happen.

UPSS are most common at service stations but may be present where fuel is stored or used such as at marinas, work depots, golf courses, airports, car dealerships and certain government facilities. 

By protecting soil, water and air quality from the risks of leaking UPSS, the community benefits through reduced risk and improved land use opportunities. There are also business benefits for the person responsible for a UPSS through reduced product losses and liabilities for clean-up costs and damage to impact on land values.

The EPA currently regulates the operation of UPSS infrastructure in NSW. However, regulatory responsibility will be transferred to local councils on 1 September 2019.

The UPSS Regulation

The Regulation focuses on minimising the risk to the environment and human health by requiring best practice design, installation and ongoing maintenance and monitoring of UPSS in NSW. 

The EPA is updating the regulatory requirements for UPSS operators in 2019, to reflect best industry practice. Changes will minimise the risk and environmental impacts of leaks from UPSS.

The EPA sought feedback from operators, local councils and the community on proposed changes to the Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation 2019 from 17 May 2019 to 14 June 2019. The EPA is currently reviewing submissions received from the consultation and is finalising the proposed Regulation.

The Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation 2014 (the UPSS Regulation) commenced in 2008 and was remade in 2014.

Compliance self-evaluation: Are you up to date with your UPSS obligations?

Leaks from UPSS are a major environmental problem and can have impacts that are costly and time consuming to fix.

The EPA has developed a self-evaluation program to provide service station operators with a quick and simple way to review their compliance with environmental requirements for UPSS in NSW.

Why should you participate?

Service station operators who participate in this program are more likely to identify issues and take the necessary actions to correct them before they develop into major environmental problems.

The EPA and key industry bodies, such as the Australasian Convenience and Petroleum Marketers Association (ACAPMA) and the Motor Traders’ Association of NSW – Service Stations Association, encourage all service station operators to participate in this program. It only takes 5 to 15 minutes to complete and could save you an expensive clean-up or compliance issue.

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Responsibility for UPSS

The person responsible for a UPSS is the person who has ‘management and control’ of the system. The person responsible must ensure that they have procedures and systems in place to detect and manage any leaks as early as possible and document these in an Environment Protection Plan (EPP) specific to the premises.

It is against the law to allow or ignore contamination resulting from a leaking or faulty UPSS. The person responsible for the UPSS has a duty to notify pollution incidents immediately and must then complete the UPSS Regulation leak notification form (DOCX 46KB) and provide it to the Appropriate Regulatory Authority within 30 days.

Exemptions from the UPSS Regulation

The EPA advises that all Exemption Orders previously issued by the EPA under Classes 2, 3 and 4 that provided exemption to the person responsible have now expired. This means that all UPSS should now be operating in accordance with the requirements of the UPSS Regulation. 

The EPA has provided self-evaluation surveys to those sites that an Exemption Order previously covered. To complete the self-evaluation online visit Class 4 Exemption Order)  https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LT63VSG

or (Class 2 and 3 Exemption Orders) https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/LQBQKNV

Transition of regulatory responsibility for the UPSS Regulation

Regulatory responsibility for the UPSS Regulation transfers to local councils on 1 September 2019.

The EPA will remain the appropriate regulatory authority for UPSS sites that are:

  • managed and operated by public authorities
  • subject to an environment protection licence
  • in the Unincorporated Areas of NSW
  • subject to a notice issued in relation to a matter arising under the UPSS Regulation until such time as the actions in the notice have been complied with.

This date coincides with the statutory remake of the UPSS Regulation.

The EPA has begun transitional arrangements for the UPSS Regulation leading up to 1 September 2019 which include

  • developing guidance material for use by councils and the industry, and 
  • consulting widely on the remake of the UPSS Regulation to better reflect community expectations, current industry best practice and the regulatory environment, and 
  • ensuring councils have the knowledge and capacity to supervise fuel storage activities.

The EPA will have an ongoing role with UPSS regulatory issues after 1 September 2019. The EPA will provide support to councils undertaking their regulatory functions, maintain and update guidance material and actively work with public authorities with UPSS on site to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements.

Please direct any enquiries to the EPA on 131 555 or to UPSSREG@epa.nsw.gov.au

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