An investigation into factors increasing contamination risk posed by fuel storage facilities and concomitant methods to mitigate these risks.
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Light Non-Aqueous Phase Liquids (LNAPLs) are used throughout the world for numerous applications, the most well-known being automotive fuels, such as petrol and diesel. The widespread production, distribution, storage and use of LNAPLs results in the ubiquitous occurrence of spillage to ground (Geller et al, 2000). Considering the hazardous nature of most LNAPLs due to their explosive and toxic characteristics, releases of LNAPLs to ground have well documented human health and ecological consequences. The occurrence of leaking underground and above-ground storage tanks at service stations and consumer installations is a common cause of contamination; and is described in literature for various countries of the world (Dietz et. al., 1986; Moschini et al, 2005; Mulroy and Ou, 1997; Harris, 1989; The Institute of Petroleum, 2002). Little failure data are however available for the South African context. In addition to this, data concerning the location and characteristics of sites storing LNAPLs in South Africa is similarly scarce. The study analysed data from three sources, namely the eThekwini Fire and Emergency Services data, GIS data and data from a local consultancy, in order to determine whether certain factors increased contamination risk posed by these facilities. The results indicated that contamination may be a result of numerous factors, but primarily line and tank failure. The type of installation was also found to have a significant influence on whether a site would be contaminated or not. In addition to the above, the results indicated that certain circumstances increase the severity of loss. The results indicated the need for more investigation to be performed into contamination as a result of LNAPL loss to ground, and the need for protective measures to be implemented for high risk sites where the likelihood and severity of a potential loss is high. Focus should then be centred on the probability of failure of non-ferrous pipework and GRP tanks to ensure adequate protective mechanisms are in place in the event of a failure of this newer infrastructure. In addition, a review of regulatory control of LNAPL storage in South Africa and the eThekwini Municipality, with reference to the international context, indicated the need for a specific department within the local government structure that manages LNAPLs with the objective of reducing contamination incidents. The continued use of underground storage of LNAPLs will always present a risk of failure/contamination due to the unseen nature of the installations and related infrastructure. It is this risk that requires regulatory management. Details of contaminated sites in South Africa should be within the public domain.
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