What do I need to know about a fuel tank on my airpark property?

Q: There’s a fuel tank in the ground on the airpark property I am interested in buying. The seller hasn’t had fuel delivered in a number of years, but says the tank is sound and there’s no reason it can’t be filled by a local distributor of avgas or auto fuel. What are the rules on this? Can I buy fuel in bulk? I know a lot of gas stations in town have had to dig up and replace their fuel tanks and I’ve heard that’s costly. Would a property like I’m looking at require that type of action?

A: Oil companies can sell fuel to an individual and deliver it to your underground tank in any quantity that works out for both parties. However, before the oil company can legally deliver the fuel and pump it into your underground storage tank, it must see your Underground Storage Tank permit.

In order to obtain a permit, you must register your tank with the EPA (or whatever the appropriate agency is in your state). That agency will come out and check your tank to make sure there are no leaks or other problems that can contaminate the surrounding ground.

Assuming all checks out properly, you will be issued a permit, which then can be shown to the oil company.

You are responsible for making sure the tank doesn’t leak and meets all the requirements of the EPA and other state and federal requirements.

My concern about older tanks has always been the cost of removing them and performing the remediation of the soil if the EPA requires it because of leakage. If there are tanks in the ground that aren’t being used and you don’t plan to try and get them approved for fuel, there is little risk of the EPA or other similar agencies finding out about the tanks and requiring their removal.

Dave Sclair is co-founder of Living With Your Plane and a renowned expert on airparks.


  1. Mike Arman says

    I absolutely agree with Tim Fousse. You really, really, really need to know the status of the tank before you buy the property. Here is why – banks don’t lend money on gas stations any more (and they have not, for years!) because when the gas station owner defaults, the bank owns the property – and the EPA (or whoever) then charges the OWNER of the property for the usually astronomical clean-up costs. Even though the bank didn’t cause or have anything to do with the leak and soil contamination, the bank (the owner) has to pay to fix it. If you are financing the property, the bank may decline the loan entirely if they find out there is an underground tank.

    Get an EPA Phase I survey (or similar) done before you go any further. The last thing you want is to have the Feds mad at you because of something you never did but as the owner of the property, you ARE legally responsible for.

    Hopefully, the tank will test good, and there will be no contamination anywhere, and you can proceed with your purchase, but you do need to confirm this.

  2. timothy fousse says

    I think that the answer you provided for this question is not complete. The buyer of this property should insist that the tank integrity be checked and the areas around the tank be thoroughly tested for any contamination prior to the sale being completed. The owner, at the time a spill is detected, will become financially responsible for the clean-up. He can sue the former owner, but that can be costly and time consuming. In the interim, the current owner would have to ensure the site was fully remediated using his own funds. This process can become quite expensive, with the final costs sometimes exceeding many thousands of dollars. Additionally, in some states, it is a crime to own a known, unreported undergorund storage tank, whether it is empty or in use. The fines for this alone can run into the tens of thousands. In my opinion, the bottom line is have the site and tank tested, either remove it or register it, and consider having an environmental insurance policy to cover you financially in the event of a spill or leak. Thanks for listening….

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