Underground petroleum storage systems

Underground petroleum storage systems (UPSS) can leak and contaminate surrounding land and groundwater, creating risks to human health and the environment.

UPSS, or 'fuel tanks', are most common at service stations but may be found where fuel is used, for example at marinas, work depots, airports, car dealerships, or government facilities.

Operators of UPSS must have systems in place to help prevent, report, and fix leaks if they happen. 

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

The UPSS Regulation

The Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation 2014 (UPSS Regulation) aims to minimise the risk to human health and the environment through best practice design, installation, maintenance, and monitoring of UPSS in NSW. 

The UPSS Regulation is being updated to reflect industry best practice and streamline its requirements and will be finalised in the second-half of 2019. Public consultation closed 14 June 2019.

Responsibility for UPSS

The person responsible for a UPSS is the person who has ‘management and control’ of the system. The person responsible must have procedures and systems in place to detect and manage any leaks as early as possible, and document these in an Environment Protection Plan for 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 then provide a completed UPSS Regulation leak notification form (DOCX 46KB) to the Appropriate Regulatory Authority within 30 days.

Compliance self-evaluation for service stations

The EPA has developed a self-evaluation program that allows service station operators to review their compliance with UPSS requirements in NSW.

Service station operators who participate are more likely to identify issues and take the appropriate actions before they develop into major environmental problems.

Download the self-evaluation form (WORD 94KB)

Exemptions from the UPSS Regulation

UPSS used to store fuel for stand-by power generation, waste, or heating oil, are exempt from several provisions of the Regulation. Details of the exemption can be viewed in NSW Government Gazette (No. 119 of 9 November 2018, pages 8447-8).

All other Exemption Orders issued by the EPA have now expired. This means all UPSS must now operate in accordance with the UPSS Regulation.  

Transition of UPSS regulation

Local councils will assume responsibility for regulation of most UPSS sites on 1 September 2019.

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

  • operated by public authorities
  • in the unincorporated areas of NSW
  • subject to an environment protection licence
  • subject to a notice issued by the EPA for a matter under the UPSS Regulation until the actions in the notice have been complied with.

The EPA has begun transitional arrangements to ensure councils have the knowledge and capacity to regulate UPSS in their local area. This includes training (see below), handover information, templates, and guidance for councils.

The EPA will also support councils with UPSS issues after 1 September 2019.

Training workshops for council officers on UPSS regulation

Registrations are open for council officers to attend capacity building workshops on UPSS regulation. These 1-day face-to-face workshops will provide council officers with knowledge and skills to regulate UPSS sites in their local area.

Locations and dates have been confirmed from August to November 2019. Council officers can register to attend a free workshop in metropolitan or regional centres.

Registration instructions

  1. Log onto the EPA Learning website and search for 'UPSS Capacity Building Workshops' under the Find Courses tab.
    Note: you will need to create an EPA Learning account before you can view the sessions.
  2. Select the session you want to attend, add to cart, and proceed.
  3. Ensure you receive a booking confirmation email and verify the date and venue you enrolled for.

These training workshops are only for council officers and attendees should be officers who will be directly responsible for carrying out inspections and taking compliance action at sites with UPSS.

The EPA will schedule additional workshops if there is enough demand.

Contact 131 555 or email UPSSREG@epa.nsw.gov.au for more information.

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