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  1. #1
    Robert Rolleston's Avatar
    Robert Rolleston Guest

    Default Underground fuel oil tanks

    What do you inspectors usually say if the buyer is looking at a property with an underground fuel oil tank that is still in use?

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  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2013
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    Washington
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    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    That depends on how long it's been in the ground and how long tanks generally last in your area.

    In my area a tank that's 40 years old is a leak waiting to happen. That's what I tell folks. Then I tell them that they'll sometimes leak sooner than that and they often don't leak for much longer than that.

    That's all true - there's basically no way to accurately predict when one will fail.

    If a home is older than forty years, I recommend they have a licensed tank company survey the property for VOCs and, if necessary, replace the tank and remediate any oil spilled.

    For tanks younger than that, I recommend they make sure that their oil company is periodically testing their tank for water content and that they have the lot surveyed by a licensed tank company for VOCs every few years and then respond as/when necessary.

    Mike O'Handley
    Kenmore, Washington


  3. #3
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    Caledon, Ontario
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    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    Inform the purchaser the tank should be assessed by a qualified heating contractor/fuel oil supplier prior to close of purchase. This simple statement throws the onus back on the vendor to supply a report on the status of the tank, and the cost for the inspection is borne by the vendor.

    Also I advise the purchaser to check with home insurance underwriter as its most certain (at least in Ontario) that underground fuel oil tanks will not be insurable.

    It would also behoove you to check with your state as to whether or not underground fuel oil tanks are still permitted for use or must be decommissioned.




  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2009
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    Washington State
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    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    When there is an underground fuel oil storage tank, in my reports, I explain that soil contamination and ecological cleanup costs can be expensive, and the tank should be pressure tested either by a Fuel Oil Delivery Service Co., or a licensed and qualified contractor prior to commitment to purchase property. Whether people have followed this advice is unknown.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
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    Anacortes, Washington
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    395

    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    In an older house I am always looking for signs of oil tanks. Metal caps, pipes coming up from the foundation with a goose neck and abandon copper lines all trigger a comments advising the buyer to that there may be a tank present on the property. I usually will request that they check with the sellers for more information.

    Is there is a abandon tank I will recommend they call a company such as Seattle Tank Oil tank removal, decommissioning, soil testing, Seattle oil Tank Services: Seattle Tank Services Home
    .

    //Rick

    Rick Bunzel
    WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
    360-588-6956

  6. #6
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    Jan 2011
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    Guelph,Ontario
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    169

    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    In Ontario,check with TSSA,as to what the requirements are


  7. #7
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    May 2009
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    Washington State
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    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    Coincidence, had one today where there was an underground tank with fuel in it and the 18" vent pipe pointed straight up at the SW corner of the structure - "weather / rain" corner - no elboe / 90 on it. Then, there was an above ground tank with a pump in it and those fuel lines were connected to the old Rheem Furnace. The original fuel lines were cut-off in the garage. No lines under the above ground tank indicating pump was to draw fuel from the underground tank. There was a Beckett Pump located at the furnace. Purpose of pump in tank unknown. Any ideas?


  8. #8
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    May 2013
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    New Jersey
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    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hintz View Post
    Coincidence, had one today where there was an underground tank with fuel in it and the 18" vent pipe pointed straight up at the SW corner of the structure - "weather / rain" corner - no elboe / 90 on it. Then, there was an above ground tank with a pump in it and those fuel lines were connected to the old Rheem Furnace. The original fuel lines were cut-off in the garage. No lines under the above ground tank indicating pump was to draw fuel from the underground tank. There was a Beckett Pump located at the furnace. Purpose of pump in tank unknown. Any ideas?
    How old was the above ground tank? Sounds like the homeowner never had the underground tank removed?


  9. #9
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    May 2009
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    Washington State
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    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    Quote Originally Posted by chad38 View Post
    How old was the above ground tank? Sounds like the homeowner never had the underground tank removed?
    No idea, still haven't figured out how to guess the age of metal -


  10. #10
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    Southern Vancouver Island
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    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Hintz View Post
    No idea, still haven't figured out how to guess the age of metal -
    Above ground oil tanks - We often find a metal tag attached, spot welded, to the oil tank that gives the date of the last formal inspection. The general rule is every 10 years. The test should be a pressure test for leaks.

    When old oil tanks start leaking, they can contaminate nearby creeks, which leads to fish kills all the way to the beach. This happened here twice last year to the same creek. Both were above ground tanks that basically emptied themselves into the fish stream.

    I judge their age by the rust on the outside, which is not the definitive rule, but it is a good indicator.

    Jim, a pump in an above ground tank might be because the oil line to the furnace has a high hump in it. It is not common here but I see it now and then - there will be a return line back to the top of the tank.

    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  11. #11
    don agel's Avatar
    don agel Guest

    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    If no longer in use, "in my opinion" all residential buried fuel oil tanks need to be removed which are not buried beneath current structures. On an average the reputable companies will charge about $2500 to properly decommission the tank and fill in place. (Which is not with methods many have tried prior such as sand/foam, but preferably a concrete slurry.) The typical cost of removal is between $2500-$3500 dependent upon site restrictions which can also elevate that cost. The real fee occurs if there is contaminated soil as this can hit 20K. There is a Government assist on this for recouping some of the fee. I think I was told 18K of coverage. Be leary of anyone charging less than these fees as the immediate cost may be less but reciprocal costs can occur in fines and litigation. On the last bout of price quote shopping for an agent friend of mine I cam across a guy in the Yellow pages who stated he can decommission the tanks for $150!! He said that he pumps out the fuel, breaks off the piping above grade and makes it look as if the tank was never there! Well it is!!!! The problem is not just if this guy didn't pump all of the fuel from the tank potentially leaving a method of contaminating the ground soil and water, he left a metal tank which is still corroding beneath the ground for some unsuspecting person to find years down the road as they fall into the pit beneath the soil which may have jagged, corroded metal grazing/slicing you as you pass into the pit. (At 14 we were eating lunch in the dining room on a Saturday when my father disappear suddenly from site through the window as he was mowing the front lawn. The mower, and nearly my father were lost into a former septic tank which collapsed leaving a pit in the front yard. We filled that pit with lots of items such as tv's & old furniture from the garage....I was a kid doing what I was told and know better now on that also.) But back to the fuel oil tank issue. Not only is there a tank beneath the soil corroding, but any potential buyers of that property will most likely not be informed of such. Install a new pool, or possible structure on top? Not good potential outcomes. Real problem occurs to the environment as a whole. Without proper assessment of the soil around this tank to determine if leakage has occurred the potential of damage to soil/water is great. The number of these buried fuel tanks still in place below grade in the US is sickening if you remember that these old tanks were made of metal and have a limited lifespan which is even further shortened by problems in installation and root structures. Ground water eventually ends up someone's drinking water, or water for the crops we eat, plants the animals eat, etc..................................... I have felt for years that this should be a Federal law that these be removed and removed properly. Not just after leakage is found....long before!!!!


  12. #12
    Join Date
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    Washington State
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    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    Quote Originally Posted by John Kogel View Post
    Above ground oil tanks - We often find a metal tag attached, spot welded, to the oil tank that gives the date of the last formal inspection. The general rule is every 10 years. The test should be a pressure test for leaks.

    When old oil tanks start leaking, they can contaminate nearby creeks, which leads to fish kills all the way to the beach. This happened here twice last year to the same creek. Both were above ground tanks that basically emptied themselves into the fish stream.

    I judge their age by the rust on the outside, which is not the definitive rule, but it is a good indicator.

    Jim, a pump in an above ground tank might be because the oil line to the furnace has a high hump in it. It is not common here but I see it now and then - there will be a return line back to the top of the tank.
    Like you said John, often, but not always. Most of the time the tags are either missing or have been painted over....


  13. #13
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    Feb 2008
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    Caledon, Ontario
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    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    Heres a pic of a data plate on interior oil tank and is affixed via tabs.
    In Ontario formal inspection tags are plastic and affixed to the filler pipe.
    Never seen a inspection tag spot welded. I am certain you don't mean that the inspector carries around a spot welder to affix a inspection tag do you John?

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    Last edited by Raymond Wand; 05-28-2013 at 03:27 PM.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Underground fuel oil tanks

    You are correct, Raymond. The tag holder is welded and the tag is crimped.

    The old rusty beasts have no tags. It's universal.

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    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

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