DEP Secretary: Tank Regulations Starting to Show Results

Jan 9, 2015

After the chemical leak from the Freedom Industries site was discovered, some blame was quickly placed on the state Department of Environmental Protection for not properly regulating the tanks. But soon enough, both the public and state lawmakers found out the DEP had no authority over the inspection of those tanks.

The tanks that used to stand at the Freedom Industries site along the Elk River.
Credit Dave Mistich / West Virginia Public Broadcasting

That quickly changed as the 2014 legislative session progressed, passing a law to create a registration and inspection program.

DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said at this time last year, his department did not have the requirement nor the authority to inspect tanks like those located at the Freedom Industries site, but a year later, that has all changed.

"Senate Bill 373 changed that," he said. "The rules have not yet been promulgated, but that's okay. The requirements to register the tanks, the requirements to inspect the tanks and turn those certifications in to us exist and that's happening right now and it's starting to work."

The requirements for registration and inspection were set forth in legislation passed by lawmakers in March of last year, but the administrative rules, including the fees assessed for tank inspections and violations, are still in the works. 

The rule itself is currently out on public comment and will likely go before the legislature next month for final approval, but Huffman maintained without the rule in place, the DEP is still seeing progress.

In September, the department filed an interpretive rule to give tank owners more clarity in the registration and inspection process. That rule broke tanks into three categories: 

  • Level One- Level one tanks are located in the zone of critical concern, contain more than 50,000 gallons, or contain hazardous materials; these tanks must be inspected by a certified engineer or a certified Steel Tank Institute or American Petroleum Institute inspector by January 1, 2015.
  • Level Two- Level two is like a catch all for those in the middle ground and often includes the tanks that are most talked about, those located on oil and gas drilling sites
  • Level Three- Level three tanks contain water or food based materials, things the DEP doesn't intend to regulate and poses little risk for harm; both level two and three tanks must be inspected by the tank owner or a designee by January 1, 2015.

"We're already getting in inspection results [from self-inspections] where they're claiming that their own tanks are not fit for service," Huffman said.

"That is the testimony to the effectiveness of the legislation. We already and in the coming weeks will have tanks being drained that would otherwise not have been."

The Associated Press reported earlier this week, however, that of the some 50,000 tanks registered with the DEP, nearly 20,000 did not meet the Jan. 1 inspection deadline.