Tracking Increases Tank Compliance

By Doug Hansen

The SUCCESS framework is Governor Herbert’s initiative to improve performance in state government by increasing operational efficiencies. In August 2014, DEQ logged its first project into the Success Management Information System (SMIS), the reporting tool used by the Office of Management and Budget to track the implementation of SUCCESS projects.

DEQ’s project, implemented by the Division of Environmental Response and Remediation (DERR), tracks and reports the rate at which owners meet Underground Storage Tank  (UST) program requirements. These requirements, known as Significant Operational Compliance (SOC) measures, were established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to detect and prevent leaks from tanks.

USTs store petroleum or hazardous substances. Leaks from these Operational Compliancetanks can contaminate ground water, drinking water, and soils. Preventing and detecting UST releases is important for protecting human health and the environment.

In March 2012, 75 percent of tank facilities were in compliance with the SOC measures at the time of inspection. We rolled out two initiatives to improve this compliance rate:

  • Training program for tank operators
  • Notices to operators to remind them when tests are due

The training program, started in January 2012, helps tank operators stay in compliance by showing them how to prevent and detect leaks from their tank systems. Two years after instituting the program, we found that compliance rates had increased to 83 percent. This 8 percent increase in compliance demonstrates that this training helps operators understand requirements for UST operation.

Even though training improved compliance, it was clear that more could be done to assist tank owners who still struggled to follow the regulations. After looking at inspection results over several years, we determined that the most common problem involved operators who were not conducting the tank tests they were required to perform every year or every three years.

In January 2014, we implemented a new program to remind tank operators when their tests were due. Because we enter test results into a database when we receive them, we can track due dates for the next tests. This allows us to send a reminder about a month before the test comes due. We initially sent out nearly 400 reminders every month.

We have seen an additional 4 percent increase in compliance rates since we began this program nine months ago, bringing UST compliance up to 87 percent. Our inspections are more efficient because we already have the tank test results and can focus on equipment checks rather than record keeping. We expect to see additional improvements from these efforts.

UST program staff are excited about the opportunity to continue to work with the tank community to reduce risks to the environment through improved compliance rates. DEQ will continue to report the results of this project to the Governor’s Office as part of the SUCCESS Framework initiative.

Want to learn more about the governor’s SUCCESS framework? Check out this video from the Office of Management and Budget that explains how the program aims to improve efficiencies at state agencies. Visit our web pages to learn more about the UST program and the ways we work with tank operators to ensure that underground tanks are functioning properly and are protective of human health and the environment.

I graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemical and Energy Sustainability IssuesFuels Engineering from the University of Utah in 1995. My last nineteen years have been spent within the Department of Environmental Quality. I spent the first thirteen years of my career cleaning up spills from underground storage tanks, and the last five trying to prevent them. I also spent one year on special assignment working on energy and sustainability issues. When I am not in the office, I enjoy spending time with my family, working in my yard and garden, and going to Utah football games (GO UTES!).