Interpreting Unmanned Facilities in Texas

UST Operators When the regulations are meant to be unclear, which path do you take? That depends entirely on your operation. Specifically, we are discussing the unmanned facilities with underground storage tanks in Texas. When referring to Texas code, card lock facilities / unmanned facilities are not required to have a C Operator on site. Why should it matter if you have a C Operator on site at an unmanned facility? Because sometimes actions do take place there.

For example: A school bus driver returns to the yard at 9pm after a football game. He needs to fuel up the bus. A dialed-in test was being run at that time, so the fueling set off alarms. Should the bus driver know more about the fuel system than how to fill the tank? That’s the question. Do bus drivers need to be trained as C Operators when their perfunctory role isn’t environmental?

What about Refineries? There are several refineries in Texas where the facilities are manned, but the men don’t access the tanks – they are for emergency only.

Texas Administrative Code  says, During hours of operation, UST facilities must have at least one certified operator (either a Class A, Class B, or Class C operator) present at the UST facility, except when a UST facility is unmanned. A UST facility is considered unmanned when during the normal course of business there is routinely no attendant present at the facility who could respond to alarms or emergencies related to the UST system. (Examples of unmanned UST facilities include, but are not limited to, card lock or card access fueling stations, telecommunication towers or utility transfer stations serviced by emergency generator USTs, and unattended UST systems located at industrial facilities.) Unmanned facilities must have weather resistant signage clearly visible from any dispenser which instructs users with regard to basic safety procedures, provides the customer with a 24-hour telephone contact number monitored by a Class A, B, or C operator for the facility and provides instruction on when to call 911.

Federal regulations identify UST monitoring requirements. The states incorporate unmanned facilities in their regulations and the EPA OUST (Office of Underground Storage Tanks) approves the regulations. There are various ways to monitor an unmanned facility, from shutting it down when an alarm occurs to having the customer call a phone number. Each state has different requirements that unmanned facilities have to meet. This link takes you to the EPA UST rules page. From here you have to open the PDF Subpart D – 280.40-280.45

Unmanned sites should have some form a positive shutdown or a quick response in case of an alarm, spill or overfill. The school bus driver scenario would also apply  – if the UST was getting a delivery. Each site has to identify how the monitoring system alarms to set conditions like a delivery, a fuel leak or a spill. If it is a non-retail fleet facility some training will help but retail locations cannot be expected to train the customers.  The important thing is that there is a set means of responding to overfills, spills or leaks and the local agency approved the process. The key point is that the person at the facility has to know how to respond when a condition arises.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on whether a Class C Operator needs to be on site at an unmanned facility if activities will be taking place. What do you think?