Storage tanks allow large amounts of material to be locally available immediately. It would be impractical and disruptive to the environment to build direct pathways for a material to every desired location. Likewise, it would be inconvenient and wasteful to travel to a distant location to retrieve material every time it is needed. Installing storage tanks for commonly used substances in strategic or popular locations is a simple solution that meets most demands.
Storage tanks have some drawbacks, depending on how and where they are installed. Aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) can be unsightly and occupy valuable land that could be used for other purposes. If ASTs hold flammable substances, the vapors can explode and harm people and damage property. Installing tanks in the ground can resolve those problems, but underground storage tanks (USTs) cannot be monitored as easily. Although any storage tank system can leak, if a UST leaks, it is difficult to detect. That can allow contents to leak for a long time and contaminate a large area before being discovered.
Petroleum or other hazardous substances from leaking tanks can contaminate rivers, lakes, reservoirs, and other waterbodies. Spills to surface waters can threaten fish and other wildlife. Leaked contents can seep into the soil, contaminate ground water, and impact private or municipal drinking water wells. About 60 percent of Hoosiers get drinking water from ground water supplies.
IDEM closely regulates storage tanks and specifies their technical and operational requirements in order to prevent and minimize the potential for releases to the environment. IDEM also provides standards for investigation and cleanup if a release does occur.