Storage tank maintenance is like any other kind of maintenance. There are best practices you should follow and bad practices to avoid. Here is a list at some dos and don’ts of tank maintenance.
Do get your tank inspected regularly: If you want to be up to code, inspect your tank. Potable tanks should be inspected every three to five years or as required by state regulatory agencies, according to AWWA M42 2013. Fire protection tanks with cathodic protection should be inspected and cleaned every five years, while those without it should be inspected every five years, according to NFPA 25.
Don’t ignore OSHA codes: OSHA has strict codes for tank components such as ladders and handrails. If a tank isn’t up to code and an accident occurs – like someone falling off a ladder that was too narrow – the tank owner will likely incur a hefty fine.
Do pair your tank inspections with cleanouts: Sediment settles at the bottom of all storage tanks – whether potable or for fire protection. Sediment in potable tanks is gross – who wants dirty drinking water? Sediment in fire protection tanks is a potential hazard – what if it gets lodged and can’t feed the sprinkler system? Nobody wants that, which is why tanks should be cleaned regularly. It makes sense to pair cleanouts with inspections, so there is only one mobilization cost. Also, if a tank must be drained, it will only have to happen once.
Don’t skimp on security measures: Potable storage tanks are supposed to be enclosed by a fence with signs warning against trespassers and how tampering with a potable tank is a federal offense. Components on the tank should also be secured. Ladders should be equipped with lockable ladder or cage guards. Roof hatches should also be locked to keep out intruders. Installing security cameras is also an effective deterrent. Monitoring systems can help safeguard against anyone who tries to tamper with the water supply.
Do install screens: Birds, amphibians, lizards, insects, and other creatures try to fly, hop, crawl, and slither their way into any openings – including storage tanks. Installing screens on vents and overflows helps keep critters out. Overflows should also be fitted with flapper valves for additional security.
Don’t jerry-rig tank components: Using a milk jug or gas can as part of a liquid level indicator might work temporarily, but don’t make that a permanent fix. Instead, have a float installed. In the same vein, a tip of a wooden broom or stake may be used to plug a hole as a Band-Aid but call a professional to fix the leak as soon as possible.
Do keep tank records: Tanks may go decades between paint jobs or renovations. Tank owners or operators may not know a tank’s history offhand or where certain components, like the shut-off valve, are located. That’s why blueprints, inspection reports, and maintenance records should be kept on hand. These documents can be reference points for future inspections, maintenance, or repairs. It’s also best practice to keep notes on completed inspections or maintenance.
Don’t forget to insulate: Water is not drawn out of water storage tanks unless it’s to feed fire sprinklers or hydrants. That means the water becomes stagnant and is prone to freezing during cold spells. Insulating a tank and installing heaters can help prevent freezing.
Do preventative maintenance: You don’t buy a car or a house and never do any upkeep. A storage tank is an asset, and should be inspected and repaired regularly. Waiting until the last minute to make renovations is much more expensive than incremental maintenance. Similarly to not waiting until engine failure to book an oil change, don’t wait until tank failure to schedule an inspection.
Don’t leave your tank rusty: Pressure washing and repainting a tank helps keep it from rusting. Not only does that mean it’s more aesthetically pleasing, but a well-painted tank helps protect the steel’s integrity.
Do schedule in advance: Don’t wait until you are about to be fined for code violations to schedule an inspection. You will be at the mercy of a contractor’s schedule and may be charged expedited fees. Contractors will have more reasonable prices and time frames if inspections or maintenance are scheduled in advance. Dive inspections, for instance, are in high demand, so it’s better to book as soon as possible. If you know you want work done in the spring, go ahead and schedule months in advance.
Don’t ignore foundations: Most tanks are set on concrete foundations. Vegetation that grows up or around the foundation can cause it to crack and weaken, imperiling a tank’s structural integrity. Make sure to regularly landscape around a tank and its foundation. Sealing or painting a foundation also helps protect it from cracking or spalling.
Do install an effective tank vent: Tanks can freeze up or overpressurize due to a bad or ineffective vent. In a worst-case scenario, a tank could even collapse due to a bad vent. The best and most cost-effective way to avoid such an issue is to install a frostproof and pressure-proof vent.
Don’t assume bidding projects work in your favor: If you work with a contractor on small projects, prices can be negotiated at lower costs. Automatically going to bid means potentially contending with prevailing wages and public funds.
Do hire a reputable contractor: Hiring the cheapest contractor is not always the best policy. Do the research first and make sure a contractor is reputable before hiring their services.