Underground oil tank removal could spell disaster for new homeowners. Buying a house with an underground oil tank is one of the most dangerous decisions a buyer can make. That’s because, if the tank were to leak or if oil pollution was discovered in the soil, comprehensive decommissioning and remediation may be prohibitively expensive.
Cleaning up a leak from an underground oil tank may cost thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the level of pollution — and the worst thing is that your homeowner’s insurance may not cover any of the costs.
Of course, not all oil-heated homes have underground tanks; some have above-ground tanks in the basement or on the porch.
Those who own older houses that have been converted from oil to another kind of heat are also at risk, as many homeowners abandon their subsurface oil tanks when the heating source is changed or they transition to above ground, leaving them without adequate drainage and disposal.
How to Determine if You Have an Underground Oil Tank in Your Home
If there is a tank underneath, it will usually be no more than 10 feet from the foundation of the house. Pipes jutting from the ground are the most evident evidence. A fill pipe is used to fill underground oil tanks with oil, while a vent pipe is used to exhaust the tank.
The fill and vent pipes have been removed in some cases, but the tank has remained. A test is carried out by a tank removal firm using a metal detector and ground-penetrating radar to determine the existence of an oil tank.
Copper pipes in the basement that have been sealed off are another sign of an underground oil tank. They might lead to an underground oil tank if they go outside the home and underground but aren’t plumbing lines.
Process Of Removing an Underground Oil Tank
The rules governing the removal of oil tanks vary widely from state to state. In Michigan, for instance, all underground oil tanks must be properly closed and removed within a year of their final usage. New York is likewise a supporter of the removal of underground storage tanks.
A professional tank removal service is frequently used to remove an oil tank since their skilled professionals have the appropriate expertise and equipment. Furthermore, removing an underground oil tank normally necessitates the acquisition of particular licenses.
Before an underground oil tank can be removed, it must be carefully cleaned and drained of any leftover oil. It will be pulled out of the ground and transported off the property on a trailer once it is ready to be removed. The tank is then appropriately disposed of and, if feasible, repurposed or recycled. The cost of removing a tank varies depending on its size and location, but it normally runs from $1,000 to $2,500.
If you have an underground oil tank and are aware of it, you should get it inspected regularly by an expert and insure it separately. Even taking these precautions will not protect you against a leak. So, what if your tank does start to leak?
Issues that Might Arise from a Leaking Underground Oil Tank:
If you have an underground oil tank, you’re in significant danger of having an oil leak – and whether you have one now or later, the expense of cleaning up tainted soil and water sources can run into the thousands of dollars.
You may need to excavate a large portion of your land to remove and restore the soil, as well as clean up any contaminated water sources. You must also repair or replace your tank in addition to the cleaning costs.
Homeowner’s insurance never covers these expenditures; if you look closely, you’ll usually find a disclaimer for oil tanks in your policy. Some states provide funding to assist with the costs of cleaning up oil spills, but because the number of claims exceeds the amount of money available, your insurance may only cover a portion of your costs.
Oil vapors in high concentrations, such as those produced by an oil spill, can be harmful to your health. Disorientation, nausea, dizziness, sleepiness, headaches, and other side effects are common in the short term. Long-term consequences on your health as a result of persistent exposure might be even more serious. If you can smell the oil, you should leave immediately to avoid any health risks.
Lawsuits that may be filed
You may face possible litigation from impacted neighbors in addition to the costs of cleaning up an oil spill and repairing or replacing your underlying oil tank. If your oil spill contaminates a neighboring well, for example, you may be sued to reimburse the costs.
Utility companies and government entities have been known to pursue lawsuits if their property is damaged by your oil spill and they are located nearby.
Having an underground oil tank poses several issues in terms of property value. First and foremost, potential buyers will demand evidence demonstrating that the underground oil tank has not polluted your property. If you can’t present paperwork, potential buyers will presume there’s some amount of pollution, lowering the value of your home.
Aside from the financial implications, an oil spill can have catastrophic environmental consequences. A gradual leak that develops over time may easily move from the soil to the groundwater — and from the groundwater to the surface water. The groundwater may become unavailable for irrigation, which may be disastrous for many people, particularly farmers in the area. If a leak is allowed to persist long enough, it may contaminate surface water, posing a risk to public health and animals.
What Can I Do to Avoid Problems with Underground Oil Tanks?
There are a few maintenance actions you can take if you’re utilizing an underground oil tank to ensure you don’t wind up with an oil leak that contaminates your property and those nearby:
Hire a Licensed Environmental Professional to inspect it.
One of the most difficult aspects of ensuring that your underground oil tank is leak-free is the fact that you can’t see it. Everything becomes more difficult as a result. To ensure that there is no oil present, a registered environmental specialist can conduct several tests on the soil and water surrounding the tank.
They can then use the documents to prove that your underground oil tank is not leaking. If a fracture is discovered, the qualified environmental specialist can offer you an estimate for the cost of repairing or removing the tank.
Invest in a policy that covers oil remediation.
While most homeowner’s insurance plans do not cover pollution caused by an oil tank to your house, property, or adjacent places, you may be able to add oil cleanup coverage to your policy.
Coverage quantities and policy prices vary, but if you have an underground oil tank and no insurance to cover it, ask your homeowner’s insurance carrier whether they provide oil cleanup coverage. If your insurance company does not supply it, shop around for another company that does.
Keep in mind that you’ll need documentation that your underground oil tank conforms with state and federal requirements to qualify for oil remediation coverage. Larger tanks are subject to federal rules, but even if your underground oil tank is exempt from federal regulations, your state may have laws that force you to take action.
Remove the Oil Tank Underneath the Ground
The only way to avoid the dangers of an underground oil tank is to have it removed from your property. It’s preferable to get rid of an abandoned tank if you find one on your property. If you utilize oil heat, you’ll need to replace it with an above-ground tank.
While above-ground oil tanks face many of the same dangers as underground tanks, the fact that they’re shielded from soil moisture helps to prevent rust and corrosion. Furthermore, above-ground tanks are easy for you and a professional to check, allowing you to keep track of the tank’s condition and identify any problems early on, reducing your risk.
The good news is that underground oil tanks are becoming increasingly rare as more homes remove or fill them up. However, if a house you’re considering still has one, there are a few things you should be aware of.
With the removal of your underground oil tank and documents demonstrating that your property is clean, you may be certain that any costs, litigation, or environmental difficulties associated with an oil leak have been eradicated.