Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (Jan. 6, 2005) - The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) today is finalizing two regulations designed to protect groundwater resources and public health from the release of petroleum stored in underground storage systems.

The first regulation increases underground storage tank inspections. “Maryland has responded to several high profile groundwater contamination cases within the state,” said Kendl P. Philbrick, MDE secretary. “Maryland has developed one of the most stringent inspection programs in the nation. By moving forward with an increased inspection program Maryland will provide additional safeguards to our citizens and the environment.”

Effective Jan. 16, 2006, motor fuel underground storage system owners will be required, upon MDE notification, to have the storage system inspected by a certified private inspector. Private inspectors are certified by MDE after they pass an intense training period and a MDE authored test.

Under the program, an inspector will evaluate items such as tank and piping release detection, overfill/spill prevention, system corrosion protection, as well as facility housekeeping and other compliance concerns. The certified inspector will be allowed to perform repairs and instruct the tank owner on achieving and maintaining compliance and preventing releases. After initial inspection, follow-up inspections must occur every three years to confirm continued compliance with Maryland regulations. All actions are reported back to MDE. Facilities may be subject to more detailed audits from Oil Control Program compliance staff. The costs of the inspections are predicted to range from $400 to $ 600 per site and will be borne by tank owners.

With the private inspection program, MDE predicts more than 120 private inspectors will be certified with the department. Those 120 inspectors will be able to visit and inspect UST facilities on an average every 2 to 3 years. MDE inspectors will be relieved of standard inspections and will be able to focus on problem facilities, audits of the private force and other pressing Oil Control Program duties.

The second item published in the Jan. 6 Maryland Register is the formal permanent adoption of emergency regulations to prevent MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) and other petroleum products from reaching groundwater supplies in certain parts of Maryland. The regulations require more frequent testing for vapors as well as liquid leaks and rigorous safeguards against leaks.

“For Maryland families that rely on wells, these measures provide additional assurance that their water supplies are clean and safe from MTBE and other petroleum products,” said Secretary Philbrick. “We have the ability to keep pollutants out of our drinking water and are going to do so. These are tough, but necessary regulations to protect public health.”

The emergency regulations became effective Jan. 26, 2005, and expire this month. They require installation of double-walled pipes on all new underground storage systems and built-in sensors to warn of leaks. The regulations also require increased groundwater sampling, mandate regular testing of tanks and fittings, and define steps that gas station owners and others must take when underground storage systems are suspected of contaminating groundwater.

The regulations apply in areas where wells are the primary source of household drinking water and local geology makes it impractical for homeowners to find an alternative water source. MDE has identified the areas and notified affected tank owners or operators. Both of the regulations are posted in the Jan. 6 Maryland Register. MDE seeks to adopt them under the normal regulatory process that includes a public hearing and comment period.