How This Affects You

Storage Tank Owners and Operators

If you own or operate a storage tank, you should be aware of your responsibilities. The New Owners and Operators of Underground Storage Tank Systems fact sheet and the Citizen’s Guide to Underground Storage Tanks (both on the IDEM Fact Sheets page) will help you learn more about regulations that may apply to you.

Indiana Citizens

Storage tanks are commonly used because they are simple and convenient. IDEM is aware of their environmental benefits and impacts, and works to enjoy their advantages while avoiding their disadvantages. But sometimes the environment is harmed, and people in the area are affected. The health effects from leaking tanks depend on a variety of factors, including the chemicals in the tank, the duration and size of the leak, specifics about the surrounding environment, and the duration and type of human contact with the chemicals. Aboveground storage tanks can explode if the flammable vapors inside ignite, and the accident can injure workers or others nearby.

Children and adults can become ill if they are exposed to leaked toxic contaminants that end up in their drinking water. Vapor intrusion is another health risk. Volatile vapors from underground leaks can rise up through cracks in the foundation or sump pits of buildings. The vapors can reach harmful levels and contaminate the air in homes and workplaces. Breathing these vapors or absorbing them through the skin can harm people’s health.

Leaking storage tanks can affect communities by reducing residential and commercial property values. The risk of fire or explosion is a public safety concern when large spills occur or when spills enter storm sewers and other locations such as buildings.

What Citizens Can Do

If you smell gas or any chemical odor in your home or other building, leave immediately and call 911 or your local fire department from another location. Do NOT turn on any lights, use the telephone, or use any item that may produce a spark or flame. If you smell gas or chemical odors coming from sewers, leave the area and call 911.

If you notice an oil sheen or petroleum smell or taste in your drinking water, or if you see or suspect a spill, report the incident to IDEM. You can also call your County Health Department if you want to have your drinking water tested for possible contamination. They can tell you how to take samples and may help you get free or low-cost water testing from the Indiana State Department of Health.