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Buried Fuel Oil Tanks Real Estate

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Why would I have a buried oil tank on my property?

Prior to 1970 fuel oil burning furnaces and boilers were very popular. In some homes they are still used today. The fuel oil used in these heating systems were stored in large tanks located in the basement, crawl space, or around the exterior of the home either above ground or below ground.

Risks of Having a Buried oil tank.

The main concerns with having a buried fuel oil tank on the property are leaks or the collapse of the tank from excess corrosion. The removal of a tank can be very pricey. A buried fuel oil tank can cost upwards of $3000 or more to have properly removed and if the tank has leaked this price goes up dramatically. With clean up cost so high you do not want to be stuck with that bill.

How to find evidence of an existing buried fuel oil tank.

Look for abandoned or active fill pipes, vent pipes or fuel lines coming into the home up from the ground on the exterior of the home, coming in through the home’s foundation or basement floor. Search the home for existing or abandoned oil burning equipment. Look for oil stains on foundation walls and on basement floors even ware equipment might not have even been.

What to do if a tank is buried on the property.

Obtain any and all information you can about the tank such as location, size, age of the tank and what was stored in it. Contact a professional to test the tank or the area around the tank for leaks. If the tank is abandoned ask previous owners if they have records of what was done. In some areas the local fire department or local health department has jurisdiction over smaller tanks such as what is used residential applications.

How to test for a leak.

Low-pressure air testing- When this test is conducted air will be pumped into the tank and sealed up. Then a pressure gauge will be hooked up to the tank and will monitor the air pressure in the tank for a set period of time to determine if the tank has leaks.

Soil testing- This can be conducted around the tank to search for contamination in the soil caused from a leaking tank. This method will let you know if remediation is necessary.

Testing the tank for water- This is a good indication the tank has a leak but is not always accurate because water may enter the tank through other sources such as through the vent pipe or may have already been in the fuel oil when it was pumped into the tank. If water is in the tank it needs to be removed because it will pre maturely corrode the tank. Other Methods such as ultrasound, ground penetrating radar, and magnetic testing can be used to help map out the size and location of the tank.


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