Owners rush to register tanks
HUNTINGTON -- Mike Dawson, co-owner of Dawson-Thompson Oil Co. in Huntington, is among business owners across the state scrambling to meet West Virginia's new requirement that they register their aboveground storage tanks by Oct. 1.
The registration requirement is part of a law enacted earlier this year following the January Elk River chemical spill that left 300,000 without water and lost businesses millions of dollars.
"We're going to have all our tanks registered to the state in time, but it's a lot of work," Dawson said. "The first form they sent out was too in-depth, but they've since sent out a simplified form that's much better."
Dawson, who declined to say how many tanks his company has, said it began aggressively tackling its tank inventory as soon as the bill mandating regulation of aboveground storage tanks passed in March and was signed into law.
Even with owners like Dawson working hard to meet the new law's requirements, the effort may fall short of the state's demands, said Rebecca Randolph, president of the West Virginia Manufacturer's Association. She said the new law is presenting a variety of challenges for tank owners, and for some the deadline will be impossible to meet.
"As the registration and inspection process unfolds, it is becoming evident that there simply isn't enough time for industry to comply with the deadlines established," she said last week.
A complete list of requirements can be found on the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection's website, but the basics are these: Storage containers with the capacity to hold at least 1,320 gallons of liquid, are at least 90 percent above ground and are at at fixed location for 60 days must be registered.
"It's too early to tell just how many tanks there are going to be," said Scott Mandirola, director of the state's Division of Water and Waste Management, part of the Department of Environmental Protection. "We prepared for estimates of around 20,000-50,000 tanks. Between the oil, gas, chemical, petroleum and mining industries, this isn't as rare as you may think."
As of Friday, 2,631 tanks have been registered with the DEP, with another nearly 7,000 registrations underway, said Kelly Gillenwater, DEP chief communications officer.
The industries Mandirola listed are just some that will be affected by this legislation, Mandirola said. Any type of business could fall under the requirements if they have aboveground storage tanks that fall within the guidelines, he said.
Senate Bill 373, which contains the Aboveground Storage Tank Act and the Public Water Supply Protection Act, was approved by the 2014 Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on April 1.
Mandirola said he understands business owners and manufacturers who say there isn't enough time, but he pointed out the perceived urgency for this legislation following the water crisis that put West Virginia in the national spotlight.
January chemical spill
In January, a coal-cleaning chemical, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol (MCHM), seeped out of a Freedom Industries aboveground storage tank and into the Elk River, just 1.5 miles upstream from the intake of West Virginia American Water's principal water plant for the region. A warning was released to West Virginia American Water customers in nine counties to not drink, cook with, bathe in or boil water until officials determined the water was safe.
Counties affected included Kanawha, Boone, Clay, Jackson, Lincoln, Logan, Putnam, Roane and the Culloden area of Cabell County. More than 300,000 people were without water from a period of 4-10 days.
Officials began with little information about the chemical, how dangerous it might be or what levels would be safe for human contact or consumption. More than 150 residents were treated for nausea and other symptoms, but studies are still ongoing as to the extent of the chemical spill's effects. Long-term effects of MCHM exposure are unknown, and total economic impact studies are still releasing results.
Regarding tank registration, the deadline for businesses to turn in a paper form has passed, so all registration now must be done online.
The registration form requires, at a minimum, the name of the tank owner, each tank location, its date of installation if known, type of construction, its capacity, age, type and volume of fluid it contains and the identity of and distance to the nearest groundwater public water supply intake and/or nearest surface water downstream public water supply intake, according to the Senate bill.
The considerable cost of complying with the new law is a primary problem for business owners in regards to meeting registration requirements, but another key concern is time, Randolph, of the Manufacturers Association, said.
"For example, registration of all tanks must occur by Oct. 1," she said. "With the depth of information required for each tank, for companies that have hundreds of tanks to register, this is not realistic."
Randolph said leaders of both the West Virginia Senate and House of Delegates have indicated there are issues that need to be addressed.
Many companies like Dawson-Thompson, who are working hard to comply with the new regulations, should be given adequate time to complete their inventories and the registration process, Randolph said.
She said no one is denying the importance of having a clear picture of tanks in West Virginia, but ability of tank owners to comply and the feasibility of monitoring and enforcing these new regulations are important things to consider.
According to the Senate bill, after Oct. 1, no one can use an aboveground storage tank that hasn't been properly registered and paid the fee.
While everyone with an aboveground tank that falls withing the required criteria must register, what comes next isn't as well defined.
Some tank owners will be required to undergo annual inspections, said Mandirola. According to the DEP website, annual inspections will be conducted on tanks located within a "zone of critical concern" -- a location with a nearby public surface water supply source or a public surface water influenced groundwater supply source.
Mandirola said the DEP has been working around the clock to get everything in place for the upcoming deadlines. Jan. 1, 2015, is the deadline for all tanks being inspected and certified by a professional engineer registered with the West Virginia State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers, a qualified person working under the direct supervision of a registered professional engineer or by an individual certified to perform tank inspections by the American Petroleum Institute or the Steel Tank Institute.
The inspector is to certify the tank, associated equipment, leak detection systems and secondary containment structures meet the standards of the act. The complete rules have not been established yet.
"Obviously the rule will have just been put in place close to January, so no, that's not going to leave a lot of time," Mandirola said. "That's why we've come out with this checklist to tell people if you're doing your inspections now, follow this checklist and if you can answer the questions and certify your tank is fit for service, then that will satisfy the January 1 deadline."
The checklist, along with the registration form and more information, can be found on the DEP's website, www.dep.wv.gov.
Follow reporter Shane Arrington on Twitter @ArringtonHD.
Here's a breakdown of key dates and information regarding West Virginia's aboveground tank law:
DATES: All aboveground tanks must be registered with the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection by Oct. 1. Tanks must be inspected by a certified inspector by Jan. 1.
TANKS AFFECTED: At least 1,320 gallons of liquid, at least 90 percent above ground and are fixed at a fixed location for 60 days
WHERE TO GO: Those seeking more information can go to the DEP's website, www.dep.wv.gov or by calling 304-926-0440.
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