New Government oil storage regulations could cut pollution incidents by 2,500

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) is claiming that new oil storage regulations to be introduced over four years will cut pollution incidents by up to 2,500 by the year 2005.

The new regulations, which are being put before Parliament for debate, will require all new and existing oil storage tanks on commercial, industrial or institutional premises to meet a set of minimum standards within four years, and could save companies up to £30,000 for every spill incident that is prevented, says DEFRA. Wildlife and rivers will also receive greater protection against pollution, and there will be a reduced chance of water supplies being disrupted says the Department.

“Oil-related water pollution incidents in England accounted for 17% of all water pollution incidents in 1999, mainly due to leaks from unbunded oil storage tanks,” explained Environment Minister Michael Meacher. “The new regulations will reduce the number of such oil-related incidents in England by about half by the year 2005. This will be achieved by setting design standards for all above ground oil stores and requiring that secondary containment, such as a ‘bund’ (a surrounding wall) or ‘drip tray’ is in place to prevent oil escaping into controlled waters.” Oil pollution incidents have been increasing over recent years, added Meacher, and this new solution is a cost-effective measure to help tackle the problem.

DEFRA is proposing that the new regulations should be introduced in three stages, with new oil stores being required to comply within six months in order to allow time for planning permission applications, existing stores at ‘significant risk’ complying within two years, and remaining stores complying within four years. DEFRA estimates that the cost of the new regulations to companies will be around £500, which is the difference in price between a new bunded tank and a new unbunded tank of the same size.

In 2000, oil accounted for 26% of the most serious pollution incidents, says the Environment Agency. In that same year, the Agency responded to 6,215 oil pollution incidents, and obtained successful prosecutions in 227 cases out of a total of 230, with the issuing of an additional 113 cautions, and the recovery of £1.1 million in costs. The organisation has welcomed the new regulations. “The Agency – and its predecessors – have been working towards these regulations for over 10 years,” said an Agency spokesman. “They should make a significant contribution to reducing the number of oil pollution incidents, which in turn will protect rivers and wildlife and ensure that public water supplies are not disrupted.”

Similar proposals are also under consideration by the National Assembly for Wales for introduction in the future. Meanwhile, the Environment Agency is calling on members of the public to report pollution incidents on its hotline: 0800 80 7060.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie