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Time and time again we see examples of why it makes perfect business sense to install a lining system in underground storage tanks. This is a long-term cost saving move, and not just for the increased life span that the storage tank will have, but in ways many operators might not envisage.

Some operators will often look at the expense of putting a lining system into their storage tanks, either single skin coating or double skin lining system with monitoring, and shy away from committing wholesale to a lining program for the sites they own. This is usually down to one main factor, thinking short term about the initial outlay of cost, rather than the long-term savings that this will generate. Plus, it’s easier to forget about a problem when it’s buried deep in the ground, this can be a very costly mistake.

A Major Pollution Incident

As most have probably seen in the news, Tesco have accepted an £8million penalty after pleading guilty to a petrol leak from one of their filling station storage tanks which saw 23,500 litres of petrol seep into the local sewerage system and rivers at a site in Haslingdon, north of Manchester.

The leak was allowed to continue for more than 24 hours increasing the risk to the environment and the surrounding populace. Local residents were forced to seek medical help due to the petrol odours that had drifted up from the sewerage system into their homes, causing them headaches and nausea. This impacted people up to 1 km away with reports saying the smell remained in homes for several days.

The petrol leak also made its way into several nearby waterways, which caused significant environmental damage. Dead fish were reported for more than 10km downstream.

The Environment Agency and Lancashire County Council conducted a joint investigation which found that Tesco’s failure to resolve a problem with the tank that was known to them, an inadequate alarm system and poor emergency procedures all contributed to a major pollution incident.

The Charges and Fines

The retailer pleaded guilty to two charges – a breach of regulation 12(1)(b) and 38(1)(a) of the Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) Regulations 2010 and a breach of regulation 6(8) of DSEAR 2002, contrary to s 33(1)(c) of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

Tesco were forced to pay £5million for the larger health and safety offence, £3million for the environmental offence, and costs of £22,000 and £35,434 respectively.

Lancashire County Council deputy leader Albert Atkinson said “This was a major fuel leak in a relatively built-up area and close to a busy superstore. The potential consequences are only too obvious. The fact that the leak was allowed to continue for more than 24 hours undoubtedly contributed to a risk of harm to people living and working nearby, as well as emergency services and other professionals attending the incident.”

Lining Saves You Money

Now I’m not saying it would have been the case here as further details of the leak are needed, but incidents with leaking tanks can be avoided or better managed with the proper monitored double skin lining system in place, which would alert the operator to any breach in the tank allowing them to act far quicker than they would with no system in place. With a quality lining system installed any breach would most likely be avoided in the first instance, as the internal steel of the storage tank would be protected with a corrosion resistant barrier, and if a double skin system was installed, the tank would have a second layer of protection built in.

There have been many more instances, both here in the UK and abroad, of fines being handed out for leaking storage tanks and breaching anti-pollution laws, with tougher fines regularly handed out to deter polluters.

If companies have the foresight to look at tank lining as the investment it is and a way of protecting their business and the future of their business, then they would only be paying thousands (for the lining system) instead of potentially millions of pounds in penalty’s, damaging their bank balance, reputation and the environment. Environmental regulations are strict and any facility that houses storage tanks of any kind has a responsibility to guard against any product leakage and ground or waterway contamination.