Leaking Aboveground Oil Tanks Can Require Environmental Cleanups
All oil tanks are a potential environmental and safety hazard and must be inspected by licensed and certified professionals on a regular basis. The cost to clean up oil contamination caused by leaking tanks is extremely high, and often are not covered by homeowner’s insurance policies! The expenses can range from a few thousand dollars to over a $100,000.00 depending upon the extent of the oil leak and environmental damage. The home/building, the interior air, the soil, the underground water supply, rivers, streams, and even neighboring properties can become contaminated from just one oil tank leaking.
An aboveground oil tank located in the basement of a house can not only contaminate the interior of the home, but also the exterior soil and underground water supply. Sometimes aboveground, interior oil tanks will also leak oil into nearby streams and rivers which greatly increases the environmental damage and cleanup costs. In situations where the homeowner does not have the money to afford the high expenses involved with an environmental contamination cleanup, the local municipality will hire emergency contractors to do the work. The huge costs involved are then passed onto the property owner to pay. Here are just a few of countless articles about HAZMAT Teams being called to clean up residential home oil tank leaks:
- NJDEP traces source of oil leak in Shabacong Creek to Washington Borough residence
- Moore Twp. home leaks heating oil; crews build dike to protect creek
- 130 gallons of oil spilled from tank in basement of Morris Township gas station
State Environmental Department Help with Oil Spills
More than two million homes in New York are heated by fuel oil. Each year, hundreds of fuel oil spills from home heating oil tanks are reported to the NYSDEC Spills Hotline. These spills have resulted in contamination of basements, groundwater, wells and soils, and expensive cleanups that are often not covered by homeowner’s insurance! An annual inspection of fuel oil storage tanks can prevent impacts to human health and the environment from leaks and spills. Some of the most common causes of home fuel oil spills are:
- Failing storage tanks
- Faulty fuel lines and connections
- Collapsing tank legs and supports
- Overflows during delivery
Inspection Checklist for Aboveground Storage Tanks
1. Bent, rusty, or wobbly tank legs or tank located on an unstable foundation.
2. Signs of rust, weeps, wet spots, or excessive dents on the tank’s surface.
3. Drips or any signs of leaks around the oil filter or valves.
4. Fuel oil lines not covered in a protective casing – even if under concrete.
5. Overhanging eaves where snow and ice could fall onto the tank.
6. Stains on ground or strong oil odor around the tank location.
7. Browning, dying or loss of vegetation around the tank location.
8. Silent overfill whistle while tank is being filled – ask fuel delivery person.
9. Clogged or restricted tank vent due to snow, ice or insect nests.
10. Signs of spills around fill pipe or vent pipe.
11. Improperly sized vent pipes – ask fuel delivery person.
12. Cracked, stuck or frozen fuel level gauge or signs of fuel around it.
During an external or internal visual inspection required under any of the NJDEP testing protocols, the tank inspector looks for signs that may indicate threatened structural integrity. The external inspection must also include inspection of the support structures and related equipment. The structural integrity inspection is based on the tank’s construction material and may include but is not limited to:
- Cracks or Leaks
- Discoloration or Staining
- Corrosion or Erosion
- Delamination or Deformation
- Settlement (uneven tilting)
What’s the lesson learned from all of this? Remember how important it is to have your oil tanks inspected on a regular basis by a licensed, certified, qualified and reputable inspection and testing company!