P.E.I. considers new rules for large oil storage tanks

The P.E.I. government is eyeing new regulations for oil tanks over 2,200 litres and says it's been reviewing its tank regulations for over a year.

The P.E.I. government is eyeing new regulations for oil tanks over 2,200 litres and says it's been reviewing its tank regulations for over a year.

Glenda MacKinnon-Peters, manager of inspection services with the Department of Communities, Land and Environment says expanding the tagging program to the larger tanks is under discussion.

"We're in the process right now of amending our petroleum storage tank regulations," MacKinnon-Peters said.

"We're doing a big rewrite to address some of the issues that we see as being outstanding, things like the proper maintenance of the tanks like Three Oaks, so hopefully with that rewrite we'll address some of those issues. But currently there's nothing."

Earlier this week, an oil tank at Three Oaks High School in Summerside leaked an estimated 11,000 litres of oil into the ground.

According to a provincial environment official, the 22,000-litre, 26-year-old tank rusted out, spilling into the concrete containment vessel underneath the tank. The containment vessel's drain pipe was damaged, and the plug wasn't working which allowed the oil to pour out.

The 26-year-old tank at Three Oaks High has a capacity of 22,000 litres. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Rules for large, small tanks differ

Under the existing rules, all oil tanks under 2,200 litres are required to be tagged by a licensed contractor when they're installed. That tag includes an expiry date for the tank. The tagging also creates a provincial record of each tank. 

But the bigger above-ground tanks aren't currently part of any tagging or provincial inspection program.

MacKinnon-Peters said introducing a tagging program for the larger above-ground tanks could include gathering information about the age of the tanks as well as an inventory — which currently doesn't exist.

"We want to make sure that all tanks in the province are basically given the same scrutiny that we do for a home heat tank."

Environmental officials say it could be weeks before the site is cleaned up. (Laura Meader/CBC News)

Other regulations for large tanks

The larger tanks are currently regulated in other ways.

They also have to be installed by a licensed contractor, and have to be protected by a containment vessel that's intended to catch any leaks.

The larger tanks are typically made of a heavier gauge steel as well.

"The province's main goal is protection of our ground water and making sure that we don't have leaks," said MacKinnon-Peters.

"We're always looking at what we can do better in our regulations to make sure that we don't have contamination from spills."

The province says while there are currently no rules requiring inspections of the larger tanks, it does do routine checks of government-owned tanks.

The clean-up at Three Oaks is expected to take weeks.