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Oil Tanks, Why the Concern?
Underground storage tanks continue to be a concern due to the environmental damage they can cause when they leak and the expense associated with cleaning the spill. Most residential underground storage tanks are single wall tanks and have been buried longer than their expected life span which averages 25 years. A tank can leak for years before it is discovered. Most home owner insurance policies contain a “pollution exclusion” clause which means that the insurer won’t cover the cost of the clean-up. (See sample letter) The many financial headaches a leaking tank can cause include:
• Contamination of any nearby well(s)
• Harming the local ecosystem
• Ruining the building’s heating system
• Negatively affecting the value of the property
Not sure how old the tank is? In the absence of a clear answer assume the tank dates to when the house was constructed.
Oil Tank Removal vs. Abandonment
Many buyer’s attorneys now recommend that the underground tank be removed from service prior to title transfer. Once the property is sold the new owner is responsible for the costs associated with the clean-up if there is a spill. Once a decision is made to take a tank out of service the next decision will be to have a tank abandonment or removal performed. A removal involves using machinery to excavate and remove the tank from the ground. A key benefit to a removal is having access to the soil under the tank so that it can be tested for the presence of petroleum. Since an abandoned tank will remain in the ground it should be cut open, completely emptied of its contents and thoroughly cleaned out prior to being filled with an inert material (stone, sand, etc).
Although legal, NYSDEC does not recommend this practice and states:
“…the best option is to remove the tank. In addition, should you decide to sell your home, a bank or the buyer may ask for environmental testing or the removal of the tank, which could make leaving your tank in place costlier than taking it out of the ground at the start.”
From: NYSDEC: Underground Heating Oil Tanks – A Home Owners Guide
Oil Tank Abandonment
Many buyer’s attorneys now recommend that the underground tank be removed from service prior to title transfer. Once the property is sold the new owner is responsible for the costs associated with the clean-up if there is a spill. Once a decision is made to take a tank out of service the next decision will be to have a tank abandonment or removal performed.
A removal involves using machinery to excavate and remove the tank from the ground. A key benefit to removal is having access to the soil under the tank so that it can be tested for the presence of petroleum. Since an abandoned tank will remain in the ground, it should be cut open, completely emptied of its contents and thoroughly cleaned out prior to being filled with an inert material: stone, sand, etc.
Oil Tank Removal
When considering who to hire keep in mind that the lowest price doesn’t often mean the best result. Many contractors and landscapers who offer to remove buried tanks do not have the correct insurance, experience or disposal permits required to do the job correctly. The term “legally abandoned” is widely used, however legal abandonment does not address existing or potential liabilities from leakage.
We have found many instances where individuals have been given assurances that their tanks had been “legally abandoned” but during the course of investigation prior leakage is discovered. Once title is transferred, the property owner is responsible for the cleanup. Many attorneys will advise their clients to insist that the sellers have the tank removed in order for the sale to proceed. It is strongly advised that a reputable environmental company be hired to perform this type of work due to their expertise in providing the type of documentation that will be required to prove that the job was done correctly.
This homeowner had a certificate of “legal abandonment” but oil that was never removed from the tank is clearly visible.
Oil Tank Remediation
Upon discovery of a leak, the NYSDEC must be informed and a spill number is generated. The only way to close out the spill number is to prove to NYSDEC that the spill was properly cleaned up, a process called remediation. Remediation does not need to be synonymous with uncontrolled spending.
We work with all insurance companies in cases where there is coverage. If the clean-up is to be funded by the homeowner we will meet with them in advance of any work to discuss options available to them along with the associated costs.
Oil Tank Installations
The best (and typically lease expensive) option is an above-ground storage tank. These tanks can be placed both inside and outside of the home. Our installations include all new piping and an updated copper feed that is coated for extra protection. Although a 275 gallon is the most common size tank we install we can provide a number of other tank options featuring different capacity amounts and construction types. Call for more information.
Standard Oil Tank
This tank is a single wall made of 12 gauge steel. These tanks can be ordered as either a vertical or horizontal standing unit.
Eco-Gard Oil Tank
This tank features a double bottom with a leak detection system and containment system.
Roth Oil Tank
This tank features a double wall construction comprised of a steel outer tank and a polyethylene inner tank. This tank MUST be installed by a ROTH approved installer in order for the warranty to be honored. Enviro Clean is a ROTH approved installer.
A tightness or leak test involves using a high powered microphone and acoustic signal processor to locate problems in the tank system. The device is lowered into the tank through either a direct fill or vent pipe. Slight vacuum pressure is applied and the operator will listen for signs of tank failure.
If the tank fails the test it is reported to the NYSDEC as a potential spill. Based upon the type of failure the tank can either be retested once fittings are tightened or will need to be removed.
Results will be known immediately after the test is concluded.