Tuesday, May 8, 2012

April Showers Bring...

There is an old saying that April showers bring May flowers. For station operators, the season can also bring a whole set of challenges. Often, the winter thaw and rainy spring can result in containment sumps and spill buckets full of water. There are many possibilities for the causes, ranging from the combination of high groundwater and deteriorated or improperly sealed piping penetrations, to lids with missing gaskets, or that have been re-installed without the proper clamps or bolts tightened properly.
Containment sumps are designed to be watertight and kept dry, so that there is sufficient capacity to retain product in the event of a release from the piping system. The danger of full sumps highlights several major issues. First, standing water is a primary cause for corrosion to submersible motors and other metallic piping components in sumps.  This poses not only an environmental impact, but also a potential economic impact (think 50 gallons of water into 10,000 gallons of ethanol blend)  Second, if the water is entering from piping penetrations during times of high groundwater, then product can just as easily escape from the same points when the water table is lower. Also, because water is heavier than most fuel products, if the sump is full of water, then any product released would float to the top, and could overflow out to uncontained backfill surrounding the sump, causing a direct and immediate environmental impact.

There’s another old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Now is a great time to develop a routine inspection plan for your sites based on the Federal A,B,C operator program if you haven't done so already. Take some time to open your sumps and inspect their condition - all it takes is a couple of minutes. If they’re full, take action. Identify the cause, and get them fixed. Constant water removal can be extremely expensive, and actually fixing the problem can be much more cost effective than repeated pump-outs in many cases. Don’t wait for the local inspector to do the inspection for you. Many states are starting to enforce “red tag” authority, prohibiting fuel deliveries until violations are fixed, and secondary containment is a popular discussion topic right now among regulatory agencies.