State Announces "Red Tag" Rule for Aboveground Storage Tanks

The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources today filed a new rule for aboveground storage tanks that will require inspectors to affix red tags on heating oil tanks that are at imminent risk of a fuel spill.  Fuel distributors are not allowed to deliver fuel to a red-tagged tank until the tank has been repaired or replaced.  Homeowners will have until July 31, 2020 to schedule their first inspection and after the first inspection must have their tanks inspected once every three years.

The red-tag rule will help prevent costly spills of heating oil from aboveground storage tanks. Last year, Vermont’s Petroleum Cleanup Fund spent over $1 million providing assistance to tank owners for tank upgrades and repairs and paying for cleanups associated with roughly 80 aboveground storage tank releases.  The Petroleum Cleanup Fund’s heating oil account is financed through a one-cent fee on each gallon of heating oil fuel.

“Preventing fuel spills that contaminate the environment and put human health at risk is much more cost-effective than cleanup,” said Emily Boedecker, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. “Red-tag inspections will reduce the frequency of unintended releases, improve environmental outcomes and reduce the need for expensive cleanups.”

Vermont spends on average $700,000 a year to clean up aboveground storage tank fuel spills, most of which are avoidable. Homeowners whose heating oil tanks are red-tagged may be eligible for up to $2,000 to replace indoor tanks and up to $3,000 for outdoor tanks. The Petroleum Cleanup Fund’s heating oil account provides $350,000 a year to help homeowners replace aboveground storage tanks, and the Vermont Fuel Assistance Program provided an additional $75,000 this year for assistance to low-income Vermonters.  To apply for assistance, individuals may contact kristin.davis@vermont.gov.

The new rule will require all tanks to be inspected at least once every three years.  Systems must also be inspected after a new installation, after first fill of a new installation, and whenever the customer changes fuel distributor.

The following five conditions are considered unsafe and will result in a red tag:

  • Unstable foundation;
  • Uncoated or un-sleeved piping from the tank to the heating appliance, which could corrode if in contact with soil or concrete and cause a release;
  • Unequal fill and vent pipe size, which could lead to over-pressurization of the system;
  • No vent whistle, which could lead to an overfill of a tank because the person delivering fuel cannot be sure when the tank is approaching capacity; and
  • Poor tank condition such as excessive rust, leaks, weeps, drips. These are all signs that a tank needs to be replaced.

If a tank is unsafe to fill, inspectors are required to put a red tag on the tank. The inspector will also notify the owner of the repairs that are necessary to resume fuel delivery.

New tanks and relocated tanks must be placed on a concrete pad or other solid foundation approved by the state.  An existing tank sitting on an unstable foundation must be stabilized but will not require a solid concrete foundation until 2030.

For general information about the red-tag rule, contact Marc Roy at marc.roy@vermont.gov or Matt Moran at matt.moran@vermont.gov in the Department of Environmental Conservation.