How To Know If an Oil Tank Was Properly Abandoned

old oil tankAs a homeowner, you are responsible for your house and property, its maintenance, and any improvements. But what if you are closing on a home or just bought it? You may have a potential problem lurking underground, and you don’t even know it. An improperly abandoned oil tank is one such problem that can be very expensive to address and is usually only discovered when the tank has failed.

If you have a home built between the 1930s and 1970s, the oil company likely buried the oil tank in the yard. As the trend toward natural gas grew and environmentalists recognized the dangers of steel oil tanks, new oil tanks were placed inside homes. Unfortunately, not all homeowners correctly abandoned their oil tanks, and they pose a threat to residents and the environment.

5 Things to Know About Oil Tank Abandonment

How do I know if the prior homeowner properly abandoned an oil tank? A few major tasks have been done –

  1. The tank piping is disconnected from the home’s furnace or heating system.
  2. The breather tube and fill pipe were removed or cut down below grade and sealed with concrete.
  3. The oil tank itself has been cleaned thoroughly of any remaining oil and sludge.
  4. The oil tank has been filled up with sand or foam.
  5. The oil tank has been certified that it was tested for leaks.

Unfortunately, many homeowners haven’t gotten the certification, and leak testing wasn’t performed. Remember that even if testing and certification weren’t done, it doesn’t mean that the prior homeowner didn’t properly abandon the oil tank.

What Are the Dangers of an Improperly Abandoned Oil Tank?

An oil tank that hasn’t been drained, cleaned, and sealed correctly can leak leftover oil and sludge into the ground, contaminating the soil and the local water supply, killing local wildlife, and possibly causing more extensive damage. Fumes from the oil spill can make local residents sick if the failure is severe enough. The cost to clean up an oil tank spill can run into the tens of thousands. One environmental company listed a homeowner’s bill as $19,000 for removing an improperly abandoned oil tank that had leaked.

An older oil tank, even one that was properly sealed off, will develop holes from rust as it ages. Manufacturers constructed older tanks from steel, which naturally rusts. If you choose to dig up an old oil tank and see holes in it, this doesn’t necessarily mean that it has been leaking oil into the soil. If you choose to get your oil tank decommissioned, be sure to get a Certificate of Abandonment from the company that handles the oil tank work. You will need to show it to the mortgage company should you decide to sell your home or to local officials if questions are raised about your oil tank’s abandonment.

Can I Get Rid of My Oil Tank by Myself?

No, you cannot. Unfortunately, homeowners who have tried this have not had good results and have made the situation far worse.

Companies that legally handle oil tank abandonment have specialized equipment to safely clean, drain, and manage the leftover oil and sludge since the oil is considered hazardous waste. The tank’s pipes need to be appropriately cut and sealed off. In addition to the oil tank work, the area around the tank needs excavation. Of course, if there are signs of an oil leak, it has to be addressed immediately, and the process can be a very time-consuming and costly effort on its own.

How Does Oil Tank Abandonment Affect a Home’s Sale?

Mortgage companies are increasingly wary of properties with older oil tanks buried on the property, particularly if they lack a Certificate of Abandonment. The mortgage company’s concern is the cost involved in addressing an oil leak, which can cost thousands of dollars to clean up and negatively affect a homeowner’s ability to pay their mortgage installments. In addition to mortgage companies, insurance companies are hesitant to underwrite homeowners whose properties have uncertified oil tanks.

How Do I Safely Abandon an Old Oil Tank?

The wisest course of action for any homeowner who needs to abandon an oil tank is to contact a reputable company that will perform this work and provides a notarized Certificate of Abandonment that is filed with the appropriate local offices upon its completion.

Steel oil tanks have a lifespan of 10-15 years. You can have your existing tank tested for leaks to monitor current viability, but of course, that’s no guarantee for future tank performance. Your old in-ground tank can be replaced by a new in-ground tank or an indoor oil tank. If you move your tank inside, the old tank will need to be removed or adequately abandoned and decommissioned. Either way, it is wiser to be proactive and address the situation before it becomes a costly problem.

Contact Tragar for Your Oil Tank Abandonment

Oil tank abandonment is a serious issue facing those who own, want to buy, or want to sell an older home. When done correctly, the tank can be left in place, although removal is the best option for several reasons, including future home sale prospects. When not done correctly, it can cost a homeowner many thousands of dollars to correct. If you need an oil tank to be properly abandoned and decommissioned, call Tragar today at (516) 221-2559 and schedule it.