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Underground Storage Tanks

Volume 406: debated on Wednesday 11 June 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what representations she has received and proposals she has to provide funding for (a) enforcing and overseeing corrective action at leaking underground storage tank sites and (b) clean-ups (i) where the owner or operator is unknown, or is unwilling or unable to respond and (ii) which require emergency action. [117483]

I am not aware of representations as such, although this issue was raised by the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Llwyd) in an adjournment debate on underground storage tanks on 7 January 2003, Official Report, columns 54–61WH.In England and Wales there is a duty under Section 73 of the Public Health Act 1973 for site occupiers to prevent danger, as far as is reasonably necessary, from tanks which have been used to store petroleum spirit. This legislation is enforced by the local Petroleum Licensing Authority (PLA). Where the site occupier cannot be contacted or is unknown, and there is a serious concern for public safety, the PLA can use powers under Section 290(6) of the Public Health Act 1936 to execute the works at the local authority's expense. The local authority can then seek to recover these costs either through the civil courts or by registering a charge under the Land Registration Act 1988.

Part IIA of the Environmental Protection Act can be used by local authorities to deal with significant harm or water pollution arising from land contamination, and capital support is available for eligible projects. The Environment Agency also has a range of environmental protection responsibilities and powers, and provision is made in its funding for emergency situations at USTs, and where owners and occupiers are unknown, although it would not be possible to disaggregate these functions.