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epar earthquake follow-up: identify damage to hazardous materials

POSTED ON September 22, 2021 @ 6:17 pm

With this morning’s Melbourne earthquake being close to, if not 6, on the Richter magnitude scale, it is likely that fuel, chemical, and hazardous materials storage areas sustained damage.

A study of 52 earthquakes, the strongest one was 5.8 and the average was 5.4, showed that both above and underground storage tanks can sustain damage.

Identify damage

This alert provides information to help our Victorian customers identify any damage to the integrity of their fuel and hazardous materials infrastructure and remain compliant with the new General Environmental Duty (GED)

Remember, the GED is a positive duty to proactively identify and manage environmental risk. A  person who is engaging in an activity that may give rise to the risk of harm to human health or the environment from pollution or waste must minimise those risks based on:

  • the likelihood of those risks eventuating
  • the degree of harm that would result if those risks eventuated
  • what the person concerned knows, or ought reasonably to know, about the harm or risks of harm and any ways of eliminating or reducing those risks
  • the availability and suitability of ways to eliminate or reduce those risks
  • the cost of eliminating or reducing those risks.

We recommend the following items are inspected to check on their integrity.

Aboveground Storage Tanks

Aboveground storage tanks are built to withstand many environmental conditions and there are strict design guidelines and standards. However, they can be damaged from a seismic event. An aboveground storage tank’s response to an earthquake can be broken down into two modes: impulsive mode and connective mode. The impulsive response is caused by the ground motion, which causes the tank to move and a portion of the tank’s contents to move as well. The connective response is caused by the sloshing of the product inside the tank. Also, an unanchored fuel tank can be easily moved by an earthquake posing serious threats to people and the environment.

It is critical that an inspection is conducted of all of the above-ground storage tanks that are on your premises.

Underground Storage Tanks

Underground storage tanks can be vulnerable to significant damage during earthquakes. Both the tanks and the pipelines can move, and generally, not in tandem. Damage can involve the bowser, the bowser and pipeline and seals and valves, and of course the tank itself. It is important to conduct a visual inspection of your bowser and associated seals and pipes. It is equally important to check your dip tests over the next 7 days (twice daily) to confirm the tank is not losing product.

Hardstand Areas for Wash bays or Mixing Areas

The vibrations from an earthquake can lead to ground displacement and surface rupture compromising the integrity of your hardstand areas. Please check for new evidence of lifting or cracking in your slabs or hardstand work areas.


Sumps in cellars, kitchens, chemical stores, fertiliser stores, waste oil bays, maintenance sheds, chemical mixing pads, car parks can also be damaged from seismic activity. Please conduct a visual inspection of the integrity of all sumps on-site for cracking or movement.


Concrete or brick bunding around liquid and hazardous materials storage areas can also suffer damage from seismic activity. Please check the integrity of all bunding and containment areas.

Dangerous Goods Storage Cabinets

They are generally not anchored and most have a liquid bunding system. If the cabinet has moved, the bund may be damaged or any liquid in the bund may have spilled onto the ground. Please check your storage cabinets.

For those using Connect 2.0 you can use the inspections app to create your own inspection checklist in a matter of minutes. You can then conduct the inspection, record observations, and add an image to the inspection. This will provide a great record of proactive risk management.

If you need any support or advice, please call epar’s free support hotline 1300 471 175 or call your epar Area Manager. For more information, visit OR contact at

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