Category: Areas of Practice

Leaking underground storage tanks (LUSTs) constitute one of the most serious threats to groundwater quality. Federal, state, and local statutes and regulations govern notification of a tank's existence, tank installation, tank operation, reporting of releases, spills, and leaks, cleanup of associated contamination, closure, and financial responsibility requirements associated with USTs.

The regulated community consists of homeowners, private businesses and government agencies that store hazardous substances and petroleum products in installations wholly or partially beneath the ground.

In many instances, the Massachusetts regulations are more stringent than federal law. Significant variations among the Massachusetts regulations frequently cause confusion. Since the most stringent standards must be met, owners and operators of USTs need legal and technical assistance to comply with the maze of regulations.

EPA, DEP, and local agencies can mandate inspection, sampling, and monitoring of tanks, contents, associated equipment, soils, surface waters, and groundwater. They can also issue administrative orders to compel compliance, impose civil money penalties, and seek criminal sanctions for violations.

UST regulations pinpoint financial responsibility on the tank owner and operator to take corrective action when there is a release and to compensate third parties for bodily injuries and property damages caused by any sudden and non-sudden releases.

To aid owners and operators with associated UST costs, a Massachusetts Underground Storage Tank Trust Fund is largely financed by fees imposed on gasoline stations and collected by the fuel companies that deliver the gasoline. The fund provides partial reimbursements to UST owners and operators for costs incurred as a result of response actions and for claims of bodily injury, property and natural resource damage. To be eligible for reimbursement, an owner/operator must be in compliance with all federal and state registration, construction, installation, maintenance, and operation requirements.

Our legal and consulting services provide analysis of legal issues such as whether the substance in the tank is a regulated substance, hazardous waste, or petroleum product; whether the client is actually an owner or operator of the UST; and whether regulation of the UST is based on federal, state or local law. Guidance on the complex and evolving federal and state regulatory requirements for issues such as notification, permitting, abatement measures, tank repairs and closure, performance, spill and overflow protection, installation standards, and financial responsibility is provided. We also represent PRPs in conducting remedial actions, allocating responsibility, and recovering costs.