by Chrissie Dawson
Project Manager

Join EI as we discuss STI AST SP001 External Tank Inspections in a three-part blog series. Topics will include what an STI AST SP001 External Tank Inspection is, why you may need one, some potential risks of not having one, and how often the inspections are needed.

The series will be rolled-out as follows:

Week 1 – What Exactly is an STI AST SP001 External Tank Inspection and Do I Need One?

Week 2 What Industries Typically Use ASTs?

Week 3 – How Do I Determine How Often I Need an STI AST SP001 External Tank Inspection and Find a Certified Inspector?

What Exactly is an STI AST SP001 External Tank Inspection?
STI SP001 refers to a standard published by the Steel Tank Institute (STI). The STI is a trade association that focuses on promoting the quality and safety of steel tanks by providing guidelines for the inspection of aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) and related products.  ASTs typically contain petroleum products, chemicals and other hazardous materials.  The standard outlines the necessary procedures for inspections and addresses repairs, alterations and reconstruction of ASTs. Inspections help ensure the structural integrity of the tank, prevent leaks or spills, and address any potential corrosion or damage that could lead to environmental contamination and risks to human health and safety.  Inspections must be performed by a Certified SP001 Aboveground Tank System Inspector.

Do I Need an STI AST SP001 External Tank Inspection?
The key factors that determine the need for STI SP001 External Tank Inspections include tank type, tank age, tank capacity, installation characteristics, corrosion rate, previous inspection history, environmental conditions and the regulations specific to the material stored. 

If your facility stores petroleum products, chemicals, and other hazardous materials in ASTs, it is possible that you need an STI AST SP001 External Tank Inspection.  Specific materials that would be subject to the requirement include petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, and heating oil, chemicals including acids, bases, and solvents, biofuels, waste oils, agricultural chemicals including pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers and hazardous wastes.

Why Are These Inspections So Important?
The structural integrity of ASTs containing large quantities of hazardous materials is crucial due to the impact that a tank failure may have on human health, the environment and even to properties.  For example, on January 2, 1988, a 3.85-million gallon diesel fuel AST owned by Ashland Oil Company that had been disassembled in Ohio and reassembled in Floreffe, Pennsylvania, experienced a vertical split, resulting all of the tank’s contents releasing into the storage yard, with approximately 750,000-800,000 gallons of diesel dumping into the Monongahela River via a nearby uncapped storm drain.  The spill required the shut down of public water systems and affected more than one million people in 80 communities downstream in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. Tragically, thousands of birds and fish were killed and dozens of downstream shorelines were contaminated. The spill remains of one of the worst inland oil spills in the United States.

Another example of a significant tank failure is that of a 48,000-gallon AST containing 4-methylcyclohexane methanol at the Freedom Industries, Inc. facility in Charleston, West Virginia.  On January 9, 2014, the tank experienced a leak that resulted in 10,000-gallons of 4-methylcyclohexane methanol entering into the nearby Elk River which is a drinking water source for the surrounding community.  Approximately 300,000 residents in the Charleston area were impacted by the release, as the water was unsafe for consumption, bathing, and household uses.  The environmental impact on aquatic life was also significant.

How We Can Help
It is vital that ASTs be inspected per the STI SP001 standard to ensure the structural integrity of the tank in order to prevent leaks or spills, and to address any potential corrosion or damage that could lead to environmental contamination and risks to human health and safety like that seen in Livonia, Michigan and Charleston, West Virginia. For more information regarding tank inspections and other environmental concerns, contact Chrissie Dawson at (502) 443-2455 or [email protected].