There are a high number of older houses in the Northeast that have buried fuel oil tanks. “Until the 1960’s people were generally un-aware of the risks to the environment and a lot of oil tanks went into the ground,” said Stuart Lieberman, a former NJ deputy attorney general who now practices real estate and environmental law.
Today, the risk of soil contamination from an underground tank is well known. What is also well known is the high cost of cleanup associated with oil tank leaks.
Since cleanups can be in the tens of thousands of dollars and may not be covered by your homeowners insurance, it is important to educate yourself on underground fuel oil tank leaks!
1. What is an oil tank leak?
A leak refers to the escape of petroleum from an oil tank. This usually starts out as a very small pinhole in the tank which causes the contents to leak into the surrounding soil.
A leak can also occur in faulty or corroded fuel lines. When this occurs, a soil sample will be tested. If contamination is not extensive, the lines can be replaced.
All fuel oil tanks (above and underground) can experience a leak. Above ground tanks can be easily examined for flaws by visual inspection and can be repaired before oil escapes; in comparison to buried oil tanks which cannot be visually inspected without digging it up. This leaves the possibilty of a leak to occur without your knowledge.
2. Why do buried oil tanks leak?
Oil tanks are made with bare steel. This steel goes through a natural corrosion process when exposed to minerals found in soil. This process is slow but inevitable.
If your tank is over 10-15 years old, there is a high chance it’s undergoing the corrosion process, consider replacing your tank.
3. How do I know if my tank has leaks?
With underground oil tanks, there is no easy way to detect leaks without digging it up. But there are some signs you can look for when it comes to oil tank leaks.
Some signs are – increased home heating costs (which is not the optimal way to determine a leak since other factors affect increased home heating costs), oil sheen on groundwater, stained spots or oil smells on your property, oil smells in your house, dead vegetation near or above the tank.
If your tank is 10 – 15 years old there is a high chance that it has developed small pinholes which are the cause of leaks.
If you are experiencing these signs, it’s more than likely there is a leak.
4. How do I test for a oil leak?
Contact your fuel oil company to help determine if your oil tank has leaks. A tank test can be done to test how tight the storage structure is. They will also test the fuel lines since faulty or corroded lines can cause oil to seep into the ground.
According to tank-removal companies, leaks occur in 30 – 50 percent of the cases.
5. There is a leak in my tank, now what?
If a leak is detected, be prepared to have the tank removed from the ground. Your fuel oil company or a certified contractor will remove your tank and inspect for signs of the oil leak into the surrounding soil.
Assuming no contamination is found, this is generally a straightforward affordable job, running homeowners between $1,500 – $2,500.
*At this point, it would be in your best interest to replace your tank with an above ground tank and NOT rebury another tank in the ground. Another option is converting your heating systems to run on clean, affordable propane*
Soil samples will be taken from around the tank. The samples can determine how far the oil may have spread in the ground. If soil contamination is spotted, regardless of the size, the state Department of Environmental Conservation will be informed and a report will be made of the fuel spill.
The DEC recommends that anyone with knowledge, report the discovery of any contamination or a release to the NYS Spill Hotline (1-800-457-7362) within 2 hours of discovery.
For additional information, review the NY DEC Spill Reporting & Initial Notification Requirements.
6. What if contamination is found?
Be sure to take cleanup actions right away. The problem could be minor and relatively simple to correct or it could be a major contamination. Addressing the problem now will prevent higher cost and damage later.
The state advises homeowners to find a cleanup contractor on the Department of Environmental Protection’s list of certified companies, which can be found on the department website.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the cost of cleanup depends on a variety of factors, including the extent of contamination and state cleanup standards. If only a small amount of soils needs to be removed or treated, it could be $10,000. However, the average cleanup is estimated to cost $130,000.
Once the cleanup is done, the contractor sends a report to the DEP. If the DEP is satisfied, it issues a “no further action” letter stating the property has met cleanup requirements.
7. Who is responsible for the cost of the cleanup?
If there is contamination, the homeowner will be instructed to contact their insurance company. The homeowners insurance policy may cover the cost to remediate the tank. An adjuster will be sent to your location to examine the property and review the contractor’s findings.
The insurance company will determine if the policy covers this event. A “pollution exclusion” in your policy may cover the remediation.
The homeowner is usually responsible for the cleanup cost. Homeowner insurance policies generally don’t cover the damage done by leaking tanks, although tank insurance is available with restrictions.
If you have an underground fuel oil tank, know what your homeowners insurance policy states when it comes to oil tank leaks and contamination.
These environmental time bombs can quickly partner with a financial nightmare! No person wants to be responsible for contamination to our soil or water, on top of being held liable to pay a possible $130,000 for the cleanup.
With today’s knowledge of soil and water contamination caused by oil tank leaks, it’s in the homeowners best interest to take that tank out of the ground and replace it with an above ground tank or convert to clean, affordable propane gas! Contact CES @ 800-874-1975 or complete the form below.
Farmers have used controlled burning to improve crops for centuries! But it hasn’t been until recently that home owners are using mechanical torches, or flamers, around the home to kill unwanted weeds.
Flamers are portable gas torches that create intense heat to kill weeds with propane. The popularity of flamers decreased when herbicides came onto the market. However, with increased reports of the harmful effects of herbicides to people, pets and the environment, like respiratory damage and soil contamination, homeowners are weary to continue to use them.
The flamer method is herbicide free – it doesn’t contaminate groundwater and leaves no chemical residue on crops or landscape.
Flamers are a safe and chemical free alternative to herbicides.
When operated properly, flamers are also a time-effective weed killer eliminating the need to bend and pull, disturb the soil or lace both soil and crops with herbicides.
Chemical herbicides can contaminate groundwater and leave chemical residues on crops or landscape.
Of course, personal and environmental safety concerns of another type arise when using flamers! Always check with your local fire department or town clerk before investing in a flamer.
- Torches are ideal for killing weeds along non-flammable areas such as sidewalk cracks and rocky terrain.
- NEVER torch weeds growing on dry, combustible or flammable materials.
- NEVER use flamers during periods of drought. Always check with your local fire department or town clerk before investing in a flamer.
- NEVER burn poison ivy or other poisonous plants. The smoke can cause serious allergic reactions.
- These portable flamers use pressurized tanks of propane and, if handled carelessly, can be hazardous.
How to use a flamer:
- Contact the fire department and obtain a burn permit if one is required in your area before torching weeds.
- Water the soil and weeds thoroughly before torching in order to aid in heat conduction.
- Open the flame-adjusting valve by giving 1/8 turn or until a small amount of gas can be heard escaping. Ignite the flamer using flint lighter. Turn the flame-adjusting value to adjust the size of the flame to a low pilot flame that will keep the flamer burning. A small flame is adequate for torching weeds.
- Torch weeds in spring or early summer as young weeds emerge. Young, tender weeds require less heat and less fuel than larger weeds. Begin in the a.m. hours before the heat of the day for safest results.
- Hold the flamer and walk at a slow rate along the weeds. Pass the flamer over each weed in a sweeping motion, touching each weed with the flame for no more than a split second. You only need to apply enough heat to wilt the weed but not burn them. When you apply the right amount of heat to a weed, the water in the cells boil and cause the plant to atrophy.
- Torch weeds once every two to three weeks in ongoing applications or as needed until the next frost. Flaming kills annual weeds completely but does not completely eradicate the roots of perennial weeds. With multiple treatments, however, you can deplete a perennial weed’s stored root energy, killing the weed.
Flamers are the safe and chemical free alternative to using herbicides to eliminate weeds.
Don’t know where to get a flamer?
Call All Gas Welding & Supply, Co. to purchase yours today!
What are some reasons to switch from fuel oil to propane?
- Environmental Impact
- Heating Efficiency
- Cost Savings
- Insurance Liability
Propane is a clean-burning, alternative energy source that has very little impact on the environment. This gas dissipates into the atmosphere and cannot contaminate soil or water. Unlike fuel oil, which can leak and cause severe environmental impact and can cost the homeowner thousands of dollars in damage.
Producing nearly 40% fewer emissions than oil, it produces lower carbon monoxide and hydrocarbon emissions and leaves a smaller carbon footprint on the environment.
- A pinhole in an oil tank can empty 1,000 liters of oil
- Pinhole leaks are often undetected for months, and sometimes years
- One liter of leaked oil can contaminate 1 million liters of drinking water
Propane is one of the safest alternative fuels you can use. It can be easily recognized and detected by its unique odors added by manufacturers. It’s non-toxic, cannot be easily ingested, cannot contaminate water or soil, and is stored in highly regulated tanks with safety valves and other safety mechanisms to prevent ruptures.
Propane furnaces operate at a higher efficiency percentage than oil furnaces. Oil furnaces produce heat at about 60% efficiency, compared to gas furnaces that produce heat at about 90% efficiency. By switching, homeowners can be ensured their furnace is producing heat in the most efficient manner.
There are many things to consider when talking cost savings. Since propane furnaces produce heat more efficiently, the homeowner is saving money than compared to an oil furnace. It’s also worth taking into consideration the possibility of environmental soil and water contamination, which can cost thousands of dollars!
Being insured does not mean you won’t be liable for damages due to a oil tank leak that causes soil or water contamination. Spills and leaks are extremely costly.
As a homeowner with an oil tank on your property, you are responsible for year-round maintenance of the tank. You’re entirely responsible for any spill or leak, as well as could be responsible for costs associated with the clean up. Educate yourself on why people choose propane?
Everyone deserves a safe, efficient and reliable fuel source for your home. By switching to gas, you’re not only benefiting from the change; your wallet will benefit and the environment will benefit! Contact CES today at 800-874-1975 or complete the form below.
More and more we’re hearing nightmare stories of old buried steel fuel oil tanks rotting through, causing oil to leak into the soil that result in huge cleanup bills for the unsuspecting home owners.
Home & business owners don’t realize that most property insurance carriers specifically exclude any leaks or spills from their oil tank so they are left holding the bag when it comes to this costly cleanup which law requires you to perform immediately by a licensed contractor. If you can’t pay, the state environmental agencies can often reimburse contractors and lean your property along with interest, penalties and fines.
Buried oil tanks can hold up or kill property sales just before closing when the buyer or their mortgage company realizes there is a tank in the ground.
Many of the tanks in the ground were installed post World War II when fuel oil was relatively cheap and there were no regulations on the quality of the steel used in tanks and no thought of “cathodic protection” as is required in many jurisdictions today and is standard for buried propane tanks for decades.
Homeowners are caught off-guard and pay big money to get that old tank out of the ground before the closing or even scarier – opt to have an environmental testing company perform a “Pressure test” on their old tank – putting unwanted air pressure to see if there is a leak or maybe it’s the final straw and they can cause an aging tank to leak. We would never recommend pressure testing an old tank, be safe and simply get it out of the ground before trouble happens.
So why “pressure test” an old tank?
Leaking fuel tanks can cost tens of thousands of dollars to remediate. If you have an old tank, CES offers many options including removal or abandonment in-place and can provide cost effective solutions for either a new fuel tank inside, outside alone or inside a containment enclosure or what many choose now – switching to clean, efficient, environmentally friendly propane gas heating. We don’t make our living by removing oil tanks, we try to find solutions for our fuel customers so they can afford to heat their homes for many years to come with us!
Switching to propane just became easier with our “conversion burner offer” where we’ll use your existing fuel oil furnace or boiler, simply replace your oil burner with a new Gas Burner. In addition, we offer a full line of high efficiency gas furnaces & boilers with ratings up to 95% AFUE at discounted rates for conversions. We give you all the options, costs and a payback analysis – no fee or obligation. Gas is clean and produced here in the USA unlike foreign oil.
Call us today at 800-874-1975 or fill out the inquiry form below for a no obligation site visit to see if we can give you some options & costs. We’ve been helping customers since 1968!