Auto Body Shops Pollution Prevention Guide

#10 - Automotive Fuels

Used automobile fuels may become hazardous waste if they have been contaminated with sediments or have been chemically degraded, and if they are unsuitable for use in engines.

The main methods of preventing pollution when dealing with fuels include:

  • Avoiding spills and leaks
  • Reusing used fuel
  • Managing used fuel through a hazardous waste management company

Avoiding Spills And Leaks

Fuel spills and leaking storage tanks can cause serious environmental damage and create a dangerous work environment. Soil and local water supplies can easily be contaminated by leaking underground or aboveground storage tanks if not properly protected and monitored.

There are also significant worker health concerns associated with using and handling gasoline. The petroleum-based compounds commonly found in gasoline can cause nervous system damage when inhaled, and are considered carcinogenic (cancer causing).

Reusing Used Fuel

Some waste fuels can be reused by filtering out the contaminants, such as sediments, and using it in smaller engines, such as a lawn mower. The filtered sediments from unleaded gasoline may not be considered hazardous and could be disposed of, if dry, in a licensed Class II solid waste management facility (discussed in #3 - Defining A Waste).

Managing Used Fuel

Waste fuels may be considered hazardous because of their low flash point (ignitability) or chemical components (benzene, toluene, xylene). Therefore, if they are not reused appropriately, they must be stored and disposed of along with other hazardous waste generated in your shop. Refer to #3 - Defining A Waste for more information on hazardous waste management.

The following series of questions will help you develop ways of preventing pollution in fuel management:

Automotive Fuels YES NO
1) Do you store fuel in underground storage tanks? Owning underground storage tanks (USTs) requires proper leak detection and permits, especially for petroleum products.    
2) Do you store fuel in aboveground storage tanks? Aboveground storage tanks are typically regulated by state and local Fire Marshal offices.    
3) Do you know what to do with sediments from gas tanks? Dispose of gas tank sediments from vehicles that use leaded gasoline or sediments saturated with gasoline as hazardous waste. If the sediments from unleaded gasoline are completely dry, treat as a non-hazardous waste.    
4) Do you filter water-contaminated fuel for reuse? By carefully filtering the water-contaminated gasoline or diesel through a chamois you can remove the water. You can also allow the water-contaminated fuel to sit for two days in order to allow the mixture to separate. Then, carefully siphon off the fuel and reuse.    
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