Even if your current fertilizer containment methods don’t meet your state’s standards, it’s possible to improve them with the addition of new materials. Repairing cracked or damaged containment measures may be all you need to pass inspections and permit requirements. Don’t let old silos or tanks go to waste just because they’ve developed leaks that are hard to patch. With flexible liner materials used both inside and out, it’s possible to restore many older containment measures to new use with minimal investment.
Patching or Welding
Metal above-ground storage tanks and silos are particularly popular for fertilizer storage because they’re easier to patch and weld than many other materials. However, there is always a risk of combustion when working in a container that used to contain fertilizer. Thorough cleaning can still leave behind traces of chemicals that can react when an open flame or torch is applied. This means that plastic tanks and concrete structures are often safer to repair, even if they require more work. Tiny cracks can be sealed with coatings or the use of flexible liners, but larger structural damage requires repair even if you intend to line to tank or silo.
Signs of Damage
Aside from obvious physical piles or puddles of leaked fertilizer, there are many more subtle signs that valuable nutrients are escaping from your containment system. Some of these signs include:
- Lush plant growth around storage, mixing, or filling areas
- Defects in welds or visible loss of materials due to rust and corrosion
- General surface rust, which weakens the overall strength of the tank
- Thinning tank walls when measured by professional inspection equipment
- Bulging, cracks, or rust on the critical zone at the bottom six inches of tanks or silos.
Plan to empty fertilizer containers and containment systems out every five to seven years for thorough inspections. Monthly visual inspections can be completed while tanks are filled and in use since many signs of damage will still occur on the outside of a storage container. Whenever a tank is empty for cleaning or incidentally between uses, give it a basic visual inspection from its largest opening to look for signs of trouble.
Adding Leak Detection Systems
Most modern standards for safe storage of large amounts of fertilizer, including those set by The Fertilizer Institute, recommend installing an active leak detection system in every tank, silo, or containment area. Leak detection uses small sumps that collect material that leaks out so it can set off an alarm or sensor. This alerts you to a leak as soon as a small amount of fertilizer escapes. Leak detection equipment is available for almost every kind of fertilizer container and containment system, including double-walled tanks, massive silos, and areas where you store barrels or totes. Even short-term fertilizer storage deserves some kind of leak detection since clean up and remediation for a large spill can cost thousands of dollars.
Choosing Paints and Sealants
Metal and concrete silos or tanks need regular painting on the exterior to prevent corrosion and weathering from weakening the material. Using the right paint color and reflectivity will also reduce heat build-up in the storage container that can pose a safety hazard. Coatings for the inside of the tank must be designed to handle fertilizer exposure without breaking down or reacting with the chemicals. When repairing damaged seals around the base of above-ground tanks and containers, make sure to use flexible materials that will bend with the expansion and contraction of the metal, concrete, or plastic.
Adding or Restoring Insulation
Since fertilizer needs both heat and moisture control for safe storage and long-term nutrient stability, many tanks and silos feature insulated jacket layers around the primary container. While many insulation materials are affordable and easy to install on tanks and bunkers, they can cause corrosion by trapping moisture against the inner surface. Other ingredients in the insulation can also react with certain liner and container materials. For example, The Fertilizer Institute warns that fiberglass insulation may contain chlorides that break down stainless steel and weaken concrete surfaces. Choosing halide-free fiberglass prevents this problem.
Don’t let aging or damaged fertilizer containers and containment features stop you from storing nutrients on your farm. Retrofitting and repairing older structures can cost less than you expect when you work with flexible and durable materials like RPE liners. With the right repair techniques and the help of some knowledgeable professionals, you’ll soon have secure fertilizer storage options that meet and exceed state and federal regulations. Get started today by exploring your flexible liner options at BTL Liners.