Tank Inspection Deadline
Vermont regulations require all aboveground fuel oil tanks to be inspected by August 15, 2020. According to the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), a tank that does not have a passing inspection can not receive a fuel delivery after that date. If an uninspected tank is filled after August 15, the company that filled it could be liable for cleanup costs and fines if there is a leak.
While fuel dealers have known about this deadline since the regulation was enacted in 2017, the Covid-19 pandemic and Emergency Order has resulted in a significant slow down of inspections. VFDA shared survey data that backs up this assertion in a letter to DEC Commissioner Peter Walke that asked for an inspection deadline delay.
While the DEC did not agree to a delay, they will implement a new enforcement discretion policy after listening to our concerns. This policy was further clarified in an enforcement discretion memo.
The new enforcement discretion policy will allow heating oil to be delivered to an uninspected indoor tank after August 15 and up until November 1 under the following conditions:
1) The tank must have a working vent alarm/whistle
2) Both the fill pipe and the vent pipe must have a minimum of diameter of 1-1/4 inch.
Below are answers to frequently asked questions from fuel dealers about the tank inspection deadline, as well as links to supporting documents. Click here to ask a question not listed below.
What happens if we can't make the August 15 deadline?
On or before August 15, someone from your company should send Marc Roy at the DEC an email with the approximate number of overdue inspections and a plan for conducting inspections before November 1.
Is this enforcement discretion applied to outdoor tanks?
No. All outdoor tanks must be inspected and meet all five minimum safety requirements by August 15 or be placed out of service.
What if I deliver to a tank with an undersized fill/vent pipe after August 15? Or a tank without a vent alarm/whistle?
You may be subject to a fine and liable for any cleanup costs.
What if the whistle and the fill/vent pipes are properly sized, but the uninspected tank is found leaking?
You will be required to show documentation that there was an attempt to inspect the tank, but were unable due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In order to prove this and avoid liability and/or a fine, you should maintain dated communication records informing the customer of the inspection requirement, including options for remote inspection, dated communication record from the customer refusing the inspection, and a Vermont AST Inspection Checklist showing the presence of a working vent alarm and properly sized fill/vent pipes.
Can I conduct a “virtual” tank inspection?
Yes. The DEC will accept “virtual” tank inspections in which the customer provides pictures or video of their tank. Depending upon the technology, this could be with a live video application or digital pictures that give the inspector a clear and definitive look at the features that need to be inspected. If a virtual inspection is conducted, the inspectors should note on the inspection checklist how the inspection was done and who provided the media.
How can I communicate the need to inspect tanks to my customers?
Click here to download a template with sample language you can copy. Click here to order low-cost and no-cost consumer education and compliance materials, as well as customer rebate forms.
What if the emergency order continues into the fall, further restricting our ability to inspect indoor tanks?
VFDA has communicated to lawmakers and the DEC that we will likely ask for an extension in October if we can not inspect all tanks before November 1.
VFDA will add to this list of frequently asked questions as more come in. Please submit your question by sending us an email.
VFDA is developing an online tank inspector certification seminar. This seminar is geared toward delivery drivers or anyone who works for a fuel oil company that will be inspecting tanks. If you or your employees would like to learn more about this training, contact VFDA.
Resources and Links
VFDA request for an extension of the inspection deadline can be found here.
The Inspection Deadline Enforcement Discretion Policy can be found here.
An explanation of the Inspection Deadline Enforcement Discretion Policy can be found here.
The 2020 Vermont Petroleum Cleanup Fund Status Report can be found here.