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  1. #1
    Ken Bates's Avatar
    Ken Bates Guest

    Default Fuel oil odor still in Cellar

    I inspected a 100+ year old 3 family that had once been heated by oil. There were major renovations in 2006 (as best as I can tell by various data plates) so I think tanks were removed in 2006 or even sooner. All 3 units have high efficiency forced warm air furnaces in the units.

    The concrete floors in the cellar have been painted (red-not battleship gray)
    and there was too much junk to move where the oil tank had been to forensically examine the point where the copper fuel line was cut. But I could see the termination of the parging to cover the oil line through the junk and I ruled out buried tanks as these small lots have small setbacks. But a new gypsum board ceiling (replacing the old wood lath and plaster ceiling) did not allow inspection above the top of the stone foundation. The exterior was reclad with plastic siding. I always find comfort when I can find the two plugged (or poorly plugged, etc) holes where the filler pipes came in. No copper tubes visible at the foundation walls.

    The current cellar door did not seem to be large enough to allow passage of a whole 275 gal. I wish I could have measured the door frame height. HINDSIGHT!!! Broker and client pressed me for time, so I did not think enough about examing the foundation sill above the rear door to see if it had been altered to allow passage of tanks when they converted from coal to oil. So if the 3 tanks resided in the cellar and were cut in the cellar, that creates a possibility of some kind of spillage that was allowed to sit on the floor long enough to permeate the concrete. It seems far fetched that the odors would persist for several years. (however, this was and still is a bad part of Boston ( Savin Hill aka "stabn-kill") so everyone seals their cellar windows and ventilation in nil.)

    I have never sensed heating fuel oil odors as strong as I did today except when I have seen a spill from a filter change or leakage. So, my question is: Is it possible for the odors to persist for years. ( If they did at this property then they could persist for several more years!) I could not find much on the internet and I wonder if the few products (e.g. some "Cherry scented deodorant") available will actually work. I do not think Ozone would do anything.

    Sometimes I believe in Murphy's Law and I wonder if any encapsulant will take care of the problem. I overheard my client chit-chatting with the "buyer's" agent about building an office, "man room," etc in his cellar storage bin and I am making sure that he is advised that the odor may not be easy to remove.

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    Last edited by Ken Bates; 11-17-2012 at 03:56 PM. Reason: change of facts/opinions
    Inspection Referral

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Fuel oil odor still in Cellar

    Maybe fuel oil leaked under the slab and is still there?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
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    Southern Vancouver Island
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    Default Re: Fuel oil odor still in Cellar

    This story was in the news recently. Getting rid of oil is costly these days. When oil leaks out of the basement into the storm drains, it becomes a major headache. Around here, it means dead fish in the creeks.
    I would be very cautious about possible contamination under that building.

    Saanich News - Home leveled in heating oil fiasco

    "A Saanich home that was the site of a large heating oil spill last February was torn down this week to allow for environmental repair of the property.
    The spill, which occurred on Feb. 3, 2012, was the fourth incident in Saanich since November 2011 in which home heating oil leaked into the natural surroundings.
    This spill, however, wasn’t the result of a faulty tank or fuel line. Rather, an employee of XXXXX Oil pumped more than 300 litres of heating oil into the wrong house on Adelaide Avenue – one that didn’t burn oil for heat.
    Dave Rogers, senior incident commander for B.C. Hazmat, said the property at 2853 Adelaide Ave. should have been torn down in February to get access to whatever oil may be left on the property. It took until now for XXX Oil and the homeowner to come to an agreement on a remediation plan.
    “The problem is the house is built on top of a huge, huge rock, and … the oil just flowed on top of this huge rock,” Rogers said. “We couldn’t get underneath the house (to access the oil) without destroying the integrity of the house.”
    Crews from B.C. Hazmat were on site this week tearing down the home and clearing the lot. Next week they’ll be back at the site taking their cues from Jed Clampett, as Rogers puts it. “We’re looking for oil.” (Black Gold? Texas Tea?)
    Because B.C. Hazmat contained much of the spilled oil in February, Rogers says there are no greater environmental concerns on the property now than when the spill occurred.
    Although the oil is contained, it’s still on the property, and it needs to be extracted and removed, as mandated by the Ministry of Environment.
    Before the province will sign off on an oil spill site, it needs to be proven that the groundwater is as clean as drinking water, Rogers said. “That’s how clean we have to get it.”
    A spokesperson for the Ministry of Environment said XXXX Oil immediately acknowledged responsibility for the spill and has been working with the homeowner since February.
    Calls for comment were not returned by the News deadline.
    The Adelaide Avenue property has two main pockets of contamination – at the front of the house and under the foundation in the back south side. B.C. Hazmat plans to dig out soil and have it tested for hydrocarbons until it finds only clean earth. Contaminated soil will be trucked off site.
    Rogers anticipates work on the Adelaide Avenue property – from cleanup and teardown costs, to building a new home – will reach $750,000.
    “This one was extreme. We’ve never had to tear (a house) down because of an oil spill before,” he said. “This was just an unfortunate mistake.”
    Last winter and spring saw six known oil spills occur in Saanich. Two of those spills saw a combined 1,600-plus litres contaminate the Colquitz River.
    Rogers says his company usually responds to one oil spill per month on Vancouver Island. Since January, B.C. Hazmat has responded to 36 spills south of Comox.
    "The message that we're trying to get out (to heating oil tank owners) is replace your tank every 15 years and replace your lines at the same time," Rogers said. "Your tank can look great on the outside, but it rots from the inside out, so you can't see it."
    kslavin@saanichnews.com"

    Last edited by John Kogel; 11-17-2012 at 08:50 PM.
    John Kogel, RHI, BC HI Lic #47455
    www.allsafehome.ca

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Fuel oil odor still in Cellar

    Oil can remain in soil and off gass for sometime.

    Last year similiar inspection where a buried oil tank in the back yard had supposedly been removed and a new gas furnace installed. This was a home owned by a senior who had passed away. So it was an estate sale and the house was furnished but vacant.

    The basement and breezeway had a strong odour of oil. I did find the supply lines to the former oil furnace buried in the concrete floor.

    Checked the back yard and there was subsidence where the tank had been removed.

    Everyone at the inspection could smell the oil, but we couldn't see any stains or spills.

    When I got home my clothes and hair reeked of a fuel oil smell. I got on the phone to the clients and told them to proceed cautiously with waiving the inspection clause, as already noted in the report and verbally on site.

    Long story short upon further investigation by the estate it was discovered the supposed removed tank was in fact partially removed with the bottom section containing oil still in the ground. $$$$

    So I would not rule out the same scenario with your clients and would have no qualms telling them to ensure they thoroughly investigate the odour, otherwise they could be left with a big clean up bill post closing.


  5. #5
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    Mar 2007
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    Anacortes, Washington
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    Default Re: Fuel oil odor still in Cellar

    Ken,

    If your suspicious, then I would report two things: Evidence that there had been an oil fed heating system and 2) Odors that suggest an oil tank or contaminants are still present. I would then suggest the buyers ask the sellers for disclosure on the oil furnace and tank. Most areas provide a certificate if a tank is decommissioned. If they can't provide answers then an environmental company should be called to investigate further.

    This will cover yourself as the environmental cleanup costs will quickly eat up your insurance.

    //Rick

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

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    Location
    Olympia WA
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    11

    Default Re: Fuel oil odor still in Cellar

    That odor will absolutely persist. I had an in-ground tank at my home dug out a year ago. It had not been used in 30 years, and while it was reportedly empty for that time, some oil had leaked and as soon as the backhoe got down to the tank, the odor was really pronounced. We had to dig until there was no more odor in the soil and it cost me a bit more than $7000 to remediate.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Fuel oil odor still in Cellar

    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Iovanne View Post
    We had to dig until there was no more odor in the soil and it cost me a bit more than $7000 to remediate.
    That's about 1/3 of what the ones I've had removed down here in Florida cost to remove and remediate, possibly because of the soil (sand) and the oil contamination being allowed to spread further and faster?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  8. #8
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    Caledon, Ontario
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    Default Re: Fuel oil odor still in Cellar

    Quite a awhile ago a former client had a home with oil heat and had it converted to natural gas.

    The only problem was the gas installer did not remove/permanently cap the filler and vent pipe for the former oil tank that had been located in the basement.

    Esso home heating comes by and pumps just over 600 litres into the house.

    That mistake cost Esso over $300K and the owners were out of the house for almost a year.

    The soil had to be removed from the basement, exterior, drywall, furniture ruined, drywall removed from basement, insulation, clothing, hotel bills ..


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