Ashton Marra Published

The DEP's Three Categories of Above Ground Storage Tanks


When the legislature passed Senate Bill 373, they mandated the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection create a program to register and inspect all above ground storage tanks, something the state had never done before.

The bill came in response to January’s chemical spill in Charleston that left 300,000 people without drinking water for days, but for months storage tanks owners have been left with only some vague guidelines about having their tanks registered and inspected by the dates mandated in law. 

The law requires all above ground storage tanks be registered by October 1, 2014, and all be inspected by January 1, 2015. It was that date, the date for inspection, that had some interest groups up in arms, calling on lawmakers to ask the governor for a special session to move back the compliance dates.

But instead of calling that special session, Governor Tomblin chose to clarify the law through administrative rule. The DEP is working on finalizing a completed rule by December, but for now, tank owners have an interpretive rule to follow.

The interpretive rule says tanks will be categorized into three levels with specific standards set for each:

  • 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.

“To have [level two and three] tanks inspected to the same rigorous standard as a tank such as the Freedom tanks seemed to not be a very efficient process for anyone,” DEP Secretary Randy Huffman said of the rule Tuesday.

“So, we think we have established an inspection level, in full compliance with the legislation, for each tank category that is appropriate for that particular category.”

Huffman said the final emergency rule will include the same three categories for inspection and spill response plans.