6/7/2014 7:00 AM
By Marla Pisciotta West Virginia Correspondent
KEYSER, W.Va. — Stephen Starcher, the West Virginia University Extension agent in Hampshire County, W.Va., is more than familiar with a new law requiring registration of aboveground tanks.
But Starcher said there has not been a negative impact on farmers.
“At least not yet,” Starcher said. “There won’t be a ton of farmers who will meet the criteria for registration because, No. 1, tanks under 1,320 gallons are exempt, and that is a sizable tank. No. 2, the tank has to be kept at a permanent location, so large spray rigs and delivery trucks are exempt, and No. 3, the law only covers tanks which hold materials that are a liquid at standard temperature and pressure, so propane tanks are exempt because at standard pressure propane is a gas, and all silos and grain bins are exempt because the materials they hold are not liquids.”
Senate Bill 373, the Above<\h>ground Storage Tanks Act, was approved by Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin on April 1 and took effect this week.
The bill requires that an inventory and registration of above<\h>ground storage tanks be completed by Oct. 1.
It was prompted by a chemical spill in January that tainted the water supply of some 300,000 people in and around Charleston, W.Va.
Joe Sizemore is the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection chief inspector for oversight of hazard waste — underground and aboveground storage tanks.
“Anyone not registering a tank can be fined a potential of $10,000 a day,” Sizemore said.
There will also be an annual fee for each tank. But, he said, “Before we can establish a fee that makes sense, we need to define the number of tanks in the state.”
Sizemore said the fee will be established to offset the cost of administering the program.
“By establishing the number of tanks, we can determine the number of inspectors and support staff,” he said.
According to the department, tens of thousands of tanks will require registration in the Mountain State.
Starcher said few farmers will have a tank that needs to be registered and the few that due will mostly be large fuel tanks and possibly large tanks of feed molasses.
Starcher said he didn’t know of any farmer in Hampshire or Mineral counties with tanks larger than 1,320 gallons.
The question of whether the registration process will have a negative impact on farmers, Starcher said, depends on the registration fee itself and whether or not the registration and inspection process will create a hassle.
“No one has yet been through that process and no one knows how negative it will be,” he said.
Mike Harman, Jefferson County agriculture Extension agent, said his office has not received notification from the Department of Environmental Protection, or DEP.
“I think all this stuff occurred when they had the spill in southern West Virginia. I haven’t heard anybody saying anything about registration,” Harman said.
David Workman, a West Virginia University Extension agent in Hardy County, said farmers in his county have been affected by DEP rules and regulations for years.
“We’ve had to register our fuel storage tanks that have more than 1,320 gallons for years,” Workman said, adding that there may be a few liquid manure storage facilities in the county, but not many.
“We don’t have as large an issue as other folks. There aren’t a lot of dairies, so we don’t have slurry storage, which is considered a contaminate in Hardy County,” Workman said.
“We have seen some areas where owners are downsizing and removing unused tanks so they won’t have to pay a fee,” Sizemore said.
Starcher said the registration process will begin this week, but the deadline is not until October.
“I would be amazed if anyone registers a tank before the deadline if they do not release the registration fee structure. Many farmers may decide to replace tanks with tanks small enough to be exempt rather than pay the fee if they feel the fee is too high,” Starcher said.
In the meantime, the DEP is working to revise its electronic permitting system to accept tank registrations online to enable information collection.
Tank owners who don’t currently use the electronic system will need to sign up for a user ID in advance in order to register.
For more information, go online to http://www.dep.wv.gov/WWE/abovegroundstoragetanks/Pages/default.aspx.