Underground petroleum storage systems

Understand the risks of leaking underground petroleum storage systems (UPSS). Owners have responsibilities under the law.

UPSS can leak and contaminate surrounding land and groundwater, creating risks to human health and the environment.

UPSS 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 prevent, report, and fix leaks if they happen. 

The UPSS Regulation

The Protection of the Environment Operations (Underground Petroleum Storage Systems) Regulation 2019 (PDF 311KB) (UPSS Regulation) aims to minimise the risk to human health and the environment by requiring best practice design, installation, maintenance, and monitoring of UPSS in NSW.

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 fix any fuel leaks as early as possible, and document these in a Fuel System Operation Plan for the site.

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 UPSS operators

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

Operators of UPSS who complete the self-evaluation are more likely to identify issues and take appropriate action before it develops into a major environmental problem. 

Exemptions from the UPSS Regulation

The EPA issued exemptions to some UPSS sites when the UPSS Regulation was first introduced. These exemptions allowed time for UPSS operators to comply with the new requirements, such as the need to monitor for fuel losses and install groundwater monitoring wells. All these exemptions granted by the EPA have now expired.

This means all active UPSS should operate in accordance with the UPSS Regulation.

The UPSS Regulation provides powers to each appropriate regulatory authority to exempt a person or a class of persons from any of the requirements of the Regulation.

Regulators of UPSS in NSW

From 1 September 2019, most sites with a UPSS located in NSW are regulated by local councils. Visit Office of Local Government to find your local council.

The EPA is the regulatory authority for UPSS sites that are

  • operated by public authorities
  • in the unincorporated areas of NSW
  • subject to an environment protection licence

If you have questions about UPSS in your local area, contact the appropriate regulatory authority.

The online training resource for council officers can be used as a refresher or to train staff new to regulating UPSS sites. (search for UPSS Capacity Building Online Training Modules).

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