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Underground Petroleum Storage System

From 1 September 2019 the New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA) handed over the responsibilities of regulating Underground Petroleum Storage Systems (UPSS) to Local Councils.
Local Councils are now responsible for inspections of these systems within their local areas.

What is an Underground Petroleum Storage System – UPSS

A UPSS is an underground storage facility that holds petroleum products. This refers to all components of the system, including pipes, valves and any apparatus that aids in the storage of petroleum products. They are generally found at service/petrol stations, however, can also be present at car dealerships, mechanical garages, golf courses, depots and airports.

Fibreglass tankImages courtesy of EPA NSW https://epa.nsw.gov.au

Why is it important to monitor UPSS? 

UPSS can leak and cause soil and groundwater contamination. They pose a significant threat to the environment and human health if unmonitored and leaking. Soils or groundwater impacted by fuels may result in the property being classified as contaminated. Leaks that are undetected have the potential to cost a considerable amount of money and resources to clean up. A small leak can cost tens of thousands of dollars to remediate, whereas a large leak can cost into the millions. 

The person responsible for the UPSS must have a Fuel System Operation Plan in place. Guidelines for this can be found here. 

Leak Detection System

Image courtesy of EPA NSW https://epa.nsw.gov.au

What is the UPSS Regulation 2019? 

The UPSS Regulation 2019 provides implementation details under the Protection of the Environment Act 1997 (POEO 1997). It stipulates the correct management and requirements for UPSS operation. 

Information on the POEO 1997 can be found here: 

The UPSS Regulation 2019 can be found here: 

What systems are currently exempt from the UPSS Regulation? 

  • Systems that are used for fuel storage for stand-by heating sources, waste and heating oil sources are exempt from the EPA UPSS Regulation until the 31st of August 2021. 
  • Above ground storage tanks and liquefied petroleum gas tanks are not included within the Regulation. 
  • Local Councils can issue exemptions in their local area under a specific clause. 

Compliance Inspections 

The ‘Person Responsible ’ is the person who has management and control of the storage system.  A copy of the UPSS operators’ obligations can be found here. 

The NSW EPA has provided a self-evaluation compliance checklist that will also be followed during your inspection conducted by Council, you can find this here. 

Councils will generally contact the person responsible for the UPSS prior to a compliance inspection. However, inspections may occur without prior notice where there is a concern over the operation of the system, or in response to complaints. 

Council can appoint any employee as someone to inspect a UPSS. 

Please note that Council may charge a fee for the inspections and this is issued to the owners/personnel responsible for the UPSS management. 

Forecourt Management 

As per the UPSS Regulations 2019, the person responsible has a duty to maintain and manage runoff from forecourts of service stations appropriately. 

The best practice guidelines for forecourt runoff management can be found here. 

Notification Requirements 

Leaks MUST be reported to Council. Failure to report could result in up to $2,000,000 in penalties for a corporation and $500,000 for an individual. 

The leak notification form, provided by the EPA is found here.  This form must be filled out and sent to Council immediately when: 

  • A spill or leak is detected and in accordance with the UPSS Regulation Loss Detection Management Procedures 
  • There is evidence of hydrocarbons in surface or groundwater 
  • There is evidence that migration of hydrocarbons could occur 

Under the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997, a person’s activities that have caused contamination must notify the EPA as soon as practicable. 

Tank Removal

Photo courtesy of EPA NSW https://epa.nsw.gov.au


Decommissioning of a UPSS requires notification to the local council at least 30 days prior to proposed decommissioning. 

Important Resources 

Information regarding the appropriate UPSS management under the UPSS Regulations 2019 can be found here. 

The NSW EPA has created an informative course that is relevant to both the regulatory authority and persons responsible for UPSS management. This can be accessed through their learning facility here. 


Lithgow City Council Logo

This project has been funded by the New South Wales Government through the EPA’s Contaminated Land Management Program. The Council Regional Capacity Building Program supports Bathurst Regional Council, Mid-Western Regional Council, Lithgow City Council and Oberon Council.