The petrol industry is unique in many ways. One of the biggest differences between owning a petrol station versus other, similar businesses, is the potential environmental risks presented at your petrol station by fuel and fuel storage. Improper care, irregular servicing, and a failure to perform regular maintenance of tanks and equipment can spell an environmental disaster for negligent owners.
We’ve partnered with our friends at NEO Consulting to help our members understand what environmental factors to consider when purchasing or assuming ownership of a petrol station. Nick Caltabiano from NEO provided us expert insight into a few major environmental considerations to put on your radar before acquiring a new service station.
Older Petrol Stations Risk Soil Contamination
One of the most important considerations when assuming ownership of your service station is to accurately know the operating age. Petrol Stations that have been operating for 10 or more years are almost guaranteed to have some form of contamination within the soil beneath the site. This is important to be aware of, because it is considered by environmental departments such as EPA and Councils when determining whether or not your site is suitable for continued use.
When evaluations are done, these environmental organisations will be looking to determine whether or not soil contamination has left, or is at risk for leaving the site. This information is critical, as even if the site’s operations are not impacted by leaking contamination, neighbouring properties may be at risk. Without prevention, this spreading contamination can cause notable costs to owners further on down the line.
Assessing Onsite Water Monitoring Wells
One of the fastest ways that petroleum fuels travel offsite is when the fuel in question travels along the surface of groundwater. Because most fuel and water does not fully mix, tank issues or historical contamination can allow fuel to find groundwater, beginning the process of the contamination traveling offsite. This issue can be very common in areas where the water table is high. If your petrol station is in a coastal town and your tank is sitting within water, these contaminating leaks can happen quickly.
Thankfully, there is an easy way to determine the risk of groundwater contamination. Assessing the onsite water monitoring wells regularly will help you understand your risks before a problem occurs. Before assuming ownership of the petrol station, ask for all previous water monitoring reports to confirm that proper checks and maintenance have been performed. If required, have a reassessment of the wells done.
Regular assessments are the cheapest, quickest, and easiest way to guarantee your petrol station is not at risk. Additionally, if onsite water monitoring wells do not yet exist in your future service station, having them installed prior to acquisition is best practice and can prevent notable costs to you later on.
More to Consider
Besides the age of the petrol station, soil contamination, and water monitoring wells, there are a few additional factors that Nick touched on in our conversation as key factors to keep in mind.
If you purchase a petrol station with fuel tanks that are completely submerged in water, then checking the inside of your tanks for the presence of water can identify and confirm issues. If you notice any fuel quality issues or pump problems, this can also be a red flag that something may not be quite right. Issues with fuel quality or problems at the pump can be signs of failing onsite infrastructure causing rust, water, and microbial growth in fuel. All of these can contribute to general issues at your petrol station, and put you at higher risk for environmental contamination.
When discerning if your service station is at higher risk for environmental concerns, it’s important to consider nearby sensitive receptors such as schools or waterways which can be higher risk neighbours to your service station. The higher risk your neighbouring properties are, the more diligent owners should be about their petrol station’s environmental impact. Finally, if you maintain underground tanks onsite that are not in use, these should be inspected and evaluated regularly as you would with tanks currently in service.
NEO Consulting Catches Contamination Before It Happens
As the owner of a petrol station, your diligence in inspecting your tanks and equipment can be the line between a clean, compliant business, and a costly environmental disaster. Leaking fuel, water contamination, and old and aging tanks are all risks to consider and evaluate before acquiring your new petrol station.
Luckily, inspections for tank quality and compliance are a simple way to make sure that you are set up for success. NEO Consulting offers audit inspections on your business’s behalf, as part of the due diligence as a new petrol station owner. Together, you will determine any possible potential for environmental contamination, and help prevent costly leaks before they happen.
ServoPro members can access the services of NEO Consulting at a discounted rate. For more information call Dan Armes on 0490 415 063 or email [email protected].