Underground Storage Tanks Cleanup under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act
An underground storage tank (UST) system is a tank and any underground piping connected to the tank that has at least 10% of its combined volume underground.
Subtitle I of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) addresses the problems of leaking UST (LUST) systems.
The underground storage tank program is primarily implemented by states and territories. Your first point of contact is the state or territorial regulatory agency with jurisdiction where the USTs are physically located. See state and territorial UST program offices for a list of contacts.
The federal LUST Trust Fund gives EPA the resources to:
- oversee cleanups by responsible parties;
- enforce cleanups by recalcitrant parties; and
- pay for cleanups at sites where the owner or operator is unknown, unwilling, or unable to respond, or which require emergency action.
EPA may take enforcement action against owners and/or operators of LUSTs to achieve timely and protective cleanup of contamination. EPA takes enforcement action in response to an UST release if:
- the release poses a major public health or environmental emergency;
- the state or the owner/operator is unable to respond; or
- the state requests assistance from EPA.
When an UST owner or operator fails to start or complete an appropriate cleanup following an UST release, EPA may issue a corrective action order. RCRA § 9003(h) is EPA’s authority to issue orders to compel owner/operators of leaking USTs to take actions to:
- carry out investigative studies;
- take action to fix the tank and cleanup what was leaked; or
- close the UST.
Noncompliance with a RCRA § 9003(h) order may result in further legal action, including penalties of up to $37,500 for each day of noncompliance.
EPA's Underground Storage Tank Program website provides information on:
- UST program priorities;
- Laws, regulations, and documents related to USTs;
- Cleanup processes and requirements for USTs;
- Methyl Tertiary-Butyl Ether (MTBE) in gasoline;
- How to identify and report releases from USTs;
- Responsibilities and deadlines for UST owners and operators; and
- The LUST Trust Fund.