2 March 2016
Article by Elfyn Henderson, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
The Assembly will vote on secondary legislation (PDF 138KB) on 8 March 2016 that aims to reduce water pollution from inadequate oil storage facilities.
What will the Regulations do?
The Regulations will require oil storage containers that are above ground or in buildings to be fit for purpose and to have a secondary containment system. This is normally a bund (an outer wall or enclosure) or a drip tray, designed to contain any contents escaping from the storage container.
The Regulations will also replace existing provisions for agricultural fuel storage.
Why are they needed?
The Welsh Government’s Explanatory Memorandum (EM) (PDF 402KB) says that a large proportion of oil pollution incidents are caused by failures in oil storage facilities. It says these incidents pose a risk to the water environment and may affect public water supplies, as well as causing damage to property.
Currently the only standards for oil storage facilities in Wales which aim to protect the water environment relate to agricultural fuel storage, waste oil and some large industrial installations. Standards for tanks bigger that 3,500 litres for domestic properties are subject to Building Regulation controls when installed.
The Regulations controlling agricultural fuel oil storage include an exemption for tanks installed before 1991. The EM says these old installations pose a high risk. The new Regulations will therefore end this exemption.
Similar rules are already in place in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Who will be affected?
The Regulations will mainly affect:
- Domestic premises with new or replacement above ground oil storage facilities (with capacity less than 3,500 litres).
- Commercial/industrial/institutional premises with new and existing above ground oil storage facilities.
- Agricultural premises with new and existing above ground storage facilities (with capacity less than 1,500 litres) and ground storage facilities installed before 1991.
Containers under 200 litres will be exempt from the Regulations. Existing oil storage facilities, other than domestic, will have between two and four years to comply.
How have the Regulations been received?
The Welsh Government consulted on the Regulations between 24 June 2015 and 24 September 2015 and has published a summary of responses and its response to the comments it received (PDF 608KB).
The Welsh Government’s summary of responses says that respondents to the consultation were generally supportive of the new Regulations. However agricultural sector respondents wanted their sector to be exempted. Both the Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) and NFU Cymru said there is insufficient evidence to justify including agriculture within the scope of the Regulations. NFU Cymru also said that the costs to the sector had not been adequately assessed. FUW said the existing approach to managing agricultural oil storage was successful and should be continued.
The Welsh Government responded to these comments saying it is not appropriate to exclude agriculture, given the risks associated with the current approach which exempts pre-1991 facilities on farms. It also said that farmers will no longer have to notify a new oil storage facility to Natural Resources Wales, and there will be a single set of standards for all oil storage in Wales.
If passed, the Regulations will come into force 15 March 2016. Their full title is: The Water Resources (Control of Pollution) (Oil Storage) (Wales) Regulations 2016 (PDF 138KM)