Underground Storage Tanks are tanks located underground that store fuel, most commonly gasoline for vehicles, but also heating oil for homes. The average life expectancy of a home heating oil tank is 10-15 years, while an underground gas storage tank can last up to 20 years depending on the manufactured materials. Underground storage tanks are extremely likely to leak from corrosion, especially if your tank is located on the property with moist or saturated soil from a high water table. Gas and oil contain many hazardous chemicals that can be harmful to human health. Some of these chemicals are known carcinogens, while others can be toxic to humans and wildlife. When these fuels leak from the tank, they can seep into groundwater, where they can pollute water systems and potentially cause water systems to be permanently non-potable (unsafe to drink).

How You Can Help

1. Get an inspection of your underground storage tank once a year. Keep track of your fuel usage, inspection reports, and any changes. Be aware of tell-tale signs of your tank leaking:

a. Burner problems (there could be water in the tank or delivered fuel).
b. Need to fill the tank too frequently.
c. Odor near the tank or piping.
d. Dead grass or vegetation near the tank location.

If you have a leak contact:
> The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
> The Fire Department
> Providence Water (if you’re located in the watershed)
> Your insurance agent.

2. The location of your underground storage tank should be away from wells and streams, away from indoor/outdoor traffic hazards, away from or protected from roof ices, and areas where runoff from rain flows over the ground.

3. Have a professional install a tank vent and vent cap, and a fill whistle. This will help prevent rain from getting into the tank and provide an alert system for the delivery person to know when your tank is full.

4. Consider switching your tank to an above ground storage tank (AST). An AST still has the potential to leak; however it is much easier, less time consuming and less expensive to inspect and maintain properly.

Where To Learn More

“Underground Storage Tank”
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“Underground Storage Tanks (USTs)”
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“Frequent Questions About Underground Storage Tanks”
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Underground Storage Tank

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Scituate Reservoir Watershed Education Program -- Funded by Providence Water Supply Board
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