Underground Storage Tank Removal Process

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Underground storage tanks (USTs) are a common feature of many properties. While they can be helpful, they can also pose an environmental hazard if not properly maintained or removed correctly. Below, we examine what you need to know about the underground storage tank removal process.

Notify State and Local Governments

There are set guidelines for the proper removal and disposal of USTs. These guidelines are designed to protect both property owners and the environment from potential contamination or harm caused by improperly removed USTs. That is why you must ensure the removal process complies with all state and local regulations. Depending on where you live, this could mean contacting your state environmental protection agency or a local building department. You may also need to contact county or city authorities. Doing this before beginning work is essential, as failure can result in fines or penalties.

When notifying the government, you may need to provide details about the location and size of the tank, as well as your plans for removal. Your local authorities may also have specific requirements that must be met before allowing you to proceed with the project. Make sure to ask about any permits or inspections that may be necessary as well. Ensure to do this one month before the removal date.

Hire a Licensed Contractor

When it comes to Underground Storage Tank Removal, a licensed contractor is the safest and most reliable option. Contractors are held to specific standards and must have the appropriate training, licenses, and certifications before handling hazardous materials. They have access to specialized equipment that can enable efficient UST removal and guide you in obtaining relevant permits and completing inspections. Working with a licensed contractor means the job will be done efficiently, correctly, and safely.

Inert the Tank

The contractor will use inerting to prepare the tank for removal. Inerting is filling the UST with an inert gas, such as nitrogen, to prevent any combustible material inside from igniting. This reduces the risk of fire and explosion during removal.

Removal of the Tank

Once the tank has been prepared for removal, it is time to begin the process. The contractor will first need to dig around the tank to expose it. This can be done with hand tools or powered equipment, such as an excavation machine, depending on how large and deep the tank is. They may also perform a pressure test on the tank to check for leaks or potential damage. The tank should be disconnected from surrounding pipes or fittings and lifted from the ground.

Once the UST is out of the ground, it will be passed through a series of tests and inspected to ensure that no contamination has occurred during the removal process. The contractor should then dispose of the tank following local regulations. Depending on where you live, this may involve sending it to an approved recycling or disposal facility.

Management of Contaminated Soils

When USTs are removed, contaminated soils may remain. The contractor must manage these soils following local regulations and dispose of them properly. It usually involves collecting the contaminated soil, testing it for hazardous materials, and then disposing of it properly at an approved facility. The contractor should be familiar with local regulations concerning the management and disposal of contaminated soils.

Soil and Groundwater Testing

Once the UST is removed, groundwater and soil testing should be conducted to confirm that all hazardous materials have been safely removed from the area. It typically involves collecting soil and water samples from several points around the site and sending these samples to a laboratory for analysis. If tests reveal that hazardous materials remain, the contractor must implement additional measures to ensure public safety, such as installing a groundwater collection and treatment system or re-grading the area.


The contractor needs to document all steps of the UST removal process. This should include a detailed record of the excavation, inspection, and removal process and any tests performed. Documentation should also include copies of permits, licenses, certifications, and other relevant documents to ensure compliance with applicable laws and regulations. It is a good idea to keep this documentation on file in case of future legal or regulatory issues. The contractor must also provide written confirmation to the property owner that all steps have been completed and that the tank has been removed safely. This documentation ensures public safety as well as protects against any liability issues.

Removing an underground storage tank (UST) is a complex process that requires specialized skills, knowledge, and expertise. The contractor must ensure compliance with local regulations and perform all steps safely and correctly to remove the UST properly. This includes inverting the tank, removing it from the ground, managing contaminated soils, and conducting soil and groundwater tests. It is also essential to document all steps of the removal process to protect against liability issues. With these measures in place, contractors can safely and properly remove USTs and move on to their next job site.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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