A quick guide to secondary containment requirements


Secondary containment is a system that works as a second line of defense for a tank that holds hazardous material. Because of the safe containment of hazardous materials, in Title 40 of the U.S. Code of Regulation, the Environmental Protection Agency outlines a group of rules and regulations for building secondary containment systems around external liners or tanks containing hazardous substances.

So, if you’re planning to store toxic or hazardous substances in a tank on your premises,first, you must follow EPA’s requirements carefully and ensure that you install a perfectly safe secondary containment system to protect the people who spend their days on your site and your community.

What Is A Secondary Containment System And Why Does Your Business Need One? 

As we already mentioned, a secondary containment system acts as a second line of defense for a tank that holds hazardous material. The Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, defines dangerous material as any chemical or substance that can cause harm to living organisms when accidentally released or discharged into the surrounding environment.

The EPA has secondary containment requirements set for two different types of hazardous materials containers: portable storage containers like 55-gallon drums and large stationary tanks for hazardous waste. However, EPA’s definition of secondary containment systems doesn’t include extra lines of defense around portable storage containers, including spill containment booms and barriers.

If you own an underground storage tank containing hazardous material, you’re required by federal law to install a secondary containment system in place. Or, if you have aboveground storage tanks that hold dangerous substances, you should follow the EPA’s conditions under the Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure rule. Many U.S. states also have separate rules and guidelines for having secondary containment systems onto your storage tanks, so make sure to check with your local authorities before installing any secondary containment system within your facility.

A Quick Guide To The Basic Secondary Containment Requirements 

The EPA has four critical requirements for correctly building or implementing a secondary containment system. These rules relate to any tank system that holds an officially regulated hazardous material.

The System Must Be Lined With Suitable Materials 

The EPA declares that when you install a secondary containment system, the materials that come into direct contact with the hazardous material in the tank must be chemically compatible with this substance. So, for instance, if you store fuel in large quantities within your facility, you need to go with one of the most compatible secondary fuel containment systems out there to comply with EPA regulations and provide a safe working environment for everyone involved. 

On the other hand, if you select an incompatible material to line the walls of your containment system, it can react with the hazardous matter or substance and create flammable and explosive vapors. Also, your containment system must be built with durable and weather-resistant materials.

Your Tanks Must Be On A Solid Foundation 

By law, you also need to ensure that you’re installing your hazardous material tanks on top of a highly durable and supportive base unit. This will ensure that the tanks and their secondary containment systems will resist pressure gradients in the surrounding air and within the hazardous material. Steep pressure gradients can compress each dangerous substance, resulting in hazardous leakages from the tanks.

Your Secondary Containment System Must Include A Leak-Detection System 

In addition, your secondary containment system must have an integrated leak-detection system that will automatically inform you in times when there’s a leak of hazardous liquid or gas. For that reason, when selecting the appropriate system for your facility, go with a system that informs you of a leak within 24 hours of it happening. This gives you enough time to take appropriate action and limit the adverse effects of the leak as soon as possible.

The Secondary Containment System Must Have An Integrated Drainage System 

Last but not least, the EPA also demands that your secondary containment system must have a built-in drainage system. This means that when the leak-detection system notifies you of spillage, you can remove this waste promptly and efficiently from the unit without having to come into direct contact with it yourself. In most cases, you’re legally required to remove the leaked waste within 24 hours of the spillage happening.

Final Thoughts

It doesn’t matter if you own an aboveground unit containing hazardous chemicals or underground storage tanks filled with dangerous materials that could cause serious harm to all living organisms if released into the environment; you should install a secondary containment system. To do that, make sure that you’re following the strict requirements outlined by the EPA and install a system that will protect your business and the local environment.