Consider how you get water to your home or business.

If you’re in an area connected to a public water system (PWS), then you’re living off of filtered water thanks to that PWS. However, if you’re in an outlying area in the suburbs or country, you may be using private well water. 

While well water is generally safe to use and consume, there are some factors to consider about owning a home or business that runs on private well water or outside water sources. So what are some of the potential risks of running on private water that isn’t automatically filtered (or water that is run through a faulty filter system)?

Well water is groundwater that is untreated, meaning that other things can be absorbed through that water along the way, such as petroleum and other hazardous substances. Held in underground tanks, these substances can do serious damage to the quality of your groundwater, soil, and more if a leak occurs. 

With the potential risks associated with the use of underground storage tanks, public and private water systems aren’t the only concerns. Environmental impacts of dangerous substances leaking from underground storage tanks can move quickly through soil, pollute groundwater, and contaminate aquifers, lakes, rivers, and streams. This means the water supply for fish and other wildlife becomes a risk factor. 

While the priority is to prevent spills and leaks, it is important to have regulatory measures in place. With the help of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), an oil spill prevention program is in place to include the Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) rules. 

The SPCC rules help with the prevention of a leak/spill into bodies of water or nearby shorelines. 

Why are these leaking underground storage tanks dangerous?

What is an Underground Storage Tank?

An underground storage tank (UST) is a tank or combination of tanks connected to pipes and valves underground that are collectively used to contain regulated substances, such as petroleum and other hazardous substances. Typically, convenience stores and gas stations as well as fleet service operators and local government agencies use regulated USTs (for commercial or organizational purposes). 

A UST that releases a regulated substance, like petroleum, is considered a leaking UST and can present serious health and environmental risks. 

Health Risks

Most of the time, leaks from underground storage tanks don’t necessarily pose an immediate health risk to the general public. However, there are still risks associated with UST leaks. 


While there aren’t immediate risks associated with contamination of soil, consider the ways people come in contact with soil. Kids play in the dirt, people plant seeds, and emissions can occur when leaks occur in large amounts or when wind or movement carries small amounts of soil. 

Soil pollution from a leaking UST can cause health problems ranging from headaches and nausea to more serious conditions like neuromuscular blockage or kidney and liver damage. 


A PWS is great for maintaining the healthy quality of home and business drinking water. But if you’re one of the more than 15 million homes in the United States that use private well water, your drinking water may be compromised with the occurrence of a UST leak. 

Leaks from underground storage tanks are the single largest threat to groundwater in the United States. This includes everything from private well water to water found in the space between rock and soil. Around 680,000 federally-regulated USTs are buried in both rural and urban areas throughout the United States, leaving major potential threats to the quality of groundwater. 

Take Flint, Michigan, for example. Since 2014, the financial expenses of the Flint water crisis have reached well over $1 billion including both legal expenses and cleanup measures. According to the American Economic Journal, 60 percent of all underground storage tanks have experienced one or more leaks. Regulatory action and public knowledge can help prevent residents from drinking water contamination. 

Consider this: the older the tank, the more likely it is to corrode over time. Most tanks were installed before 1988, when new federal regulations for USTs were put in place, meaning that corrosion and improper installation can leave the soil unprotected if fuel or other regulated chemicals leak from the tank into the ground. 

Chemicals in USTs can move quickly through the soil and contaminate the groundwater. Given that most of these tanks are filled with toxic substances, exposure could be very dangerous. Aside from groundwater pollution, the vapors from the toxic chemicals and fumes can rise through the soil into basements, sewer lines, and pipes. 

Financial Risks

While the health dangers of leaking underground storage tanks are an immediate threat, the lingering financial dangers can be just as burdensome. 

With the leak of toxic substances comes the need for a rapid clean-up effort, meaning federal funds being diverted to use for this emergency rather than other ongoing environmental efforts. Immediate action must be taken to minimize the dangers of the chemical or fuel release to the environment and public as well as to potentially provide things like backup drinking water for public and private use in the event of contaminated groundwater. 

Considering the dangers that even vapors of these chemical leaks can pose, rapid clean-up is important. Free-standing spills can easily migrate into sewers, groundwater, and indoor spaces, causing increased danger. Depending on the contaminated site and where it is located, the leaks may involve millions of dollars and years of clean-up efforts. 

NDT Tanknicians Can Stop the Leak Before It Starts 

NDT plays a critical role in ensuring the safety of employees and consumers in nearly every form of industry, and this is where NDT Tanknicians come in. Based outside of Kansas City, MO, and with locations nationwide (Houston, Dallas, San Diego, Chicago, Tampa, and Fort Lauderdale, to name a few), we understand the importance of accurate and reliable testing in keeping your employees safe and your business running smoothly. 

We specialize in inspections and the industrial cleaning and painting of above-ground storage tanks used in various industries such as food and dairy, pharmaceutical, chemical, petroleum, and more. 

Contact us to request your quote today!