In March of 2015, around 1,500 gallons of oil seeped into the Yakima River in the Sunnyside Wildlife Refuge, managed by Washington state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife. The refuge provides natural habitats to birds, otters, beavers and more, and after the spill over 50 ducks and geese, along with multiple other species of waterfowl were seen caked in the used motor oil. The community quickly responded, and both state and federal officials, along with members of the local indigenous Yakama tribe (for which the river derives its name) were on the scene, taking part in cleanup efforts, which included vacuum pumps, absorbent pads, and setting up protective containment booms.
What went wrong?
Sources in the area suspected that the spill was the result of an above-ground storage tank, or AST, leaking the oil into an underground drain system that eventually dumped into the river. There are rules and regulations in place to avoid such incidents, but unfortunately they are not always adhered to. The American Petroleum Institute sets standards for such tanks as the one involved in the Yakima spill, and tank owners need to have regular inspections of their ASTs to ensure the avoidance of such spills. API 653 tank inspection repair alteration refers to the standards applied to steel storage tanks, and discusses multiple aspects of the tank, from the foundation to the roof and everything in between, including the shell, nozzles, joints and connections. Tanks must be inspected by an official certified in API 653 tank inspection repair alteration.
Some of the rules, regulations and specifications
API 653 tank inspection repair alteration details some of the requirements to which AST owners must be held. Tanks that are built on the owner’s property, or where the tank will ultimately end up, are called field-erected tanks, and they usually hold over 50,000 gallons. Tanks such as these require special permits and often corrosion protection on the floors of the tanks. Tanks that can hold at least 10,000 gallons of virgin oil or 1,000 gallons of used oil must have operation permits which are issued by the Oil Control Program. Tanks are required to have secondary containment areas large enough to hold the entire contents of the largest tank, and containment checks must be performed every 72 hours to one week, depending on the materials involved. In addition to these stipulations, above-ground storage tank owners must report any leak or spill of petroleum that is greater than 5 gallons, as well as any amount of a hazardous substance that escapes a tank or pipe.
As long as tank owners follow the applicable regulations, get regular, professional inspections done, and give even the slightest care about the world in which they live, tanks and rivers should get along just fine in the future.