5 Insights on Sump Testing

What fuel retailers need to know about the EPA’s new testing method

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Brought to you by Source North America.

Some convenience-store operators cringe at the thought of fuel-system testing. This necessary component of compliance management can be both costly and time-consuming. Fortunately, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Underground Storage Tanks (OUST) recently approved a new, less expensive method for testing containment sumps. Here’s what c-store operators need to know about it.

Q: What role do containment sumps perform within a fuel system?
A: Containment sump is a term that describes a liquid-tight containment chamber in the underground fuel system. These containment chambers prevent fuel released during a leak from reaching the soil or groundwater. For instance, tank sumps provide secondary containment of tank fittings, valves and pumps. Under-dispenser containment sumps provide secondary containment of dispenser plumbing, emergency shear valves and piping connections.

Q: What are the EPA’s requirements for testing containment sumps?
A: Both new and existing containment sumps, when used for interstitial monitoring of piping, must be liquid tight. The 2015 regulations require containment sumps be tested once every three years to ensure they are liquid tight. 

Q: How will the new containment-sump testing method reduce compliance expenses?
A: The original testing method required containment sumps to be filled with water above the penetration points in the sump wall to verify its liquid tightness. In short, this is a lot of water—especially if you are testing multiple containment sumps. The costs to remove and dispose of this volume of water could easily lead to thousands of dollars in compliance costs.

The EPA recently approved a new testing method developed by the Petroleum Marketers Association of America. The new testing method permits the containment sumps to only be filled to the level of a liquid-sensing device equipped with a positive shutdown that is installed below the sump wall’s penetration point. This new method significantly reduces the amount of testing liquid needed. As a result, operators may no longer need to pay for the services of a pump truck to remove the testing water from the containment area.

Q: Are there any other potential cost savings available?
A: Yes. OUST recently clarified that water used for spill-bucket and sump testing may be reused by third-party vendors at other sites. This flexibility supports the further reduction of handling and disposal costs of the test liquids.

Q: How can I learn more about containment-sump regulations and testing?
A: The EPA’s UST web page offers a great deal of information about UST management and regulations. The EPA answers frequently asked questions about the 2015 UST Regulations in this Technical Compendium. More information about the new approved containment-sump testing method is available in this article by Source North America.

Know thy fuel site
Although underground fueling equipment is out of sight, it should not be out of mind. C-store operators who familiarize themselves with their site’s fueling infrastructure and compliance needs will be able manage their forecourt from a more empowered position. Educational resources available from industry partners can help with this. For instance, Source North America regularly features an Equipment Guide in its newsletter. To learn about common fuel-site components in a short, easy-to-read format, sign up to receive Source’s newsletter.