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12 Common Myths About Heating Oil Tanks

Myth #1 – I will know if my oil tank starts leaking because I will use more oil, right?

No one ever knows when their tank is leaking. 

The only exceptions are: if the tank gets filled one day, then 2 days later the oil is gone. That is BAD and usually means a very bad leak (or someone stole the oil-very unlikely). The other way is if you smell oil in the house, that is also bad. The bottom line is you will never know the tank is leaking just by the oil consumed when you get your bill from the delivery company. 

Myth #2 – My tank will last forever

The lifespan of a tank is about 20 years, even if you have a tank with a longer warranty the max is 30 years – still not forever. If your tank is 40, 50 or 60 years old it needs to be replaced. And for buried tanks that old the likelihood of a leak is much higher because of the age.

Myth #3 – My oil company checks my tank for the maintenance plan I have

The oil company is NOT equipped to tell you if the tank is leaking, they are in the OIL business, NOT the tank business (that is our job here at GreenTRAX). During their maintenance checks they will do for you (if you have the right plan), they can sometimes check for water in the tank. But even some of them don’t do that. And just because there IS or ISN’T water in the tank doesn’t mean the tank IS or ISN’T leaking. That is just one indication that we use. Even if your tank is aboveground, they cannot tell you the age or condition of the tank from the outside. Tanks deteriorate from the inside out.

Myth #4 – I’m buying (or selling) a house that has a buried oil tank; my real estate agent knows everything I need to do regarding it

While some agents, if they have dealt with tanks before, or work in areas that have a lot of underground tanks, may have dealt with this before, most could NOT advise you properly on how to deal with the situation. Many do not know what the law is. They do not teach about underground tanks in real estate school. And even if the agent has dealt with this before, that doesn’t mean the job was handled properly.

Myth #5 – If my tank leaks my home insurance will cover the cost of the cleanup

Your basic home insurance policy does NOT cover heating oil tanks. It actually EXCLUDES them. There are only a very small number of people who pay extra for a RIDER that covers the oil tank leak remediation. There are a couple of companies that provide specific insurance to cover the oil tank and any leakage. But don’t assume that when you have a leak you will be covered by your normal insurance company. 

Myth #6 – My HVAC contractor, my plumber, my “contractor”, or my friend’s brother’s sisters’ husband told me “ so and so” about the tank and that I can do “such and such” to fix it

You cannot believe what someone else tells you about an underground OR aboveground tank. Only trust a licensed oil tank removal or installation specialist. GreenTRAX is licensed by the Maryland Dept. of the Environment (MDE). Tanks are a niche industry and other contractors are NOT versed in tank rules, codes, and proper procedures. ONLY trust a tank contractor for a buried tank removal or installation, or aboveground oil tank removal or installation. Even plumbers and HVAC contractors do not know how to properly remove USTs and ASTs and they do not install them properly typically either. If you are unsure, call the MDE.

Myth #7 – I can just have someone fill the tank with foam through the fill pipe

That is illegal.That is not a proper tank abandonment in-place. It doesn’t remove the leftover oil and the sludge in the bottom of the tank and the tank can still leak. And it doesn’t check the soil below the tank to make sure it is clean and not contaminated. Then when you go to sell the property, you will have to remove the tank anyway and the whole process costs you more now than it would have if you had called GreenTRAX in the first place. 

Myth #8 – I can dump sand in the tank and it’s good to leave in-place

This is THE MOST COMMON myth out there. It is against code to dump sand in the fill pipe. It doesn’t fill the tank up, and it just creates a pyramid in the tank and 2/3 of the tank is still open. But most importantly it doesn’t get rid of the oil, sludge, and water in the tank and when the tank leaks, then the sand is contaminated and must be hauled away with contaminated soil. So please stop doing that.

quick abandonment fuel tank

Myth #9 – My oil company or the oil delivery person will tell me when I have a problem

This one is not totally false. There are only a few instances the oil company/driver will only tell you that you need to replace your tank:

  • When whistle doesn’t work on the tank i.e. broken vent pipe because then it’s against the law for them to fill it anymore
  • Or if they notice an actual leak. Maybe the aboveground storage tank (AST) is dripping and they see that
  • Or the underground storage tank (UST) is overflowing out the top when they arrive. That condition would indicate the tank is taking on water, probably from holes in the tank, and the tank is getting filled with water, forcing the oil out the top of the fill pipe.

So other than those few things, which are not a common daily occurrence, your oil company will NOT be able to tell you when the tank (AST or UST) is past its useful life and needs to be replaced. 

Myth #10 – I want to abandon the UST in-place, I don’t want to remove it

This is the 2nd biggest myth we hear all the time. In some cases, it is better (BUT NOT CHEAPER) to attempt a tank abandonment in-place (if it’s done by a licensed tank contractor, aka GreenTRAX, and it is done properly and soil samples are taken and tests clean). But generally it is better AND CHEAPER to REMOVE the tank instead of doing a tank abandonment in-place. It is faster, easier and the best way to show the tank is not leaking and the soil is clean. Then if the tank is leaking it must be removed per code anyway. Plus, the contaminated soil needs to be dug out also. 

Myth #11 – If my aboveground tank is installed inside and not outside it will last longer and not rust and it will not leak

AST’s deteriorate from the inside out, not the other way around. Heating oil is very dirty and builds up sludge over time. The sludge laying in the bottom of the tank will hold moisture and that is what eats away at the metal and causes pinholes. So regardless of the tank inside or outside, we have seen leaks in both cases. 

Myth #12 – It is cheaper if I let a scrap guy take my (AST) oil tank instead of paying GreenTRAX to do it the right way

FALSE, FALSE, FALSE!!! Companies that are not licensed for oil tank work should NOT be doing oil tank removals. Because WHEN they dump the oil in the ground, or spill it all over your basement, or pump it out with a shop-vac and leave it in 20 5-gallon buckets or trash cans all over your floor, it is going to cost you way more for the cleanup process than if you had let GreenTRAX do the work in the first place. Other companies that do not know how to handle the leftover oil AND sludge in the tank should leave tank removals to the professionals. 

GreenTRAX is the best in Maryland! (that’s no myth)

GreenTRAX IS the best in Maryland for oil tank removals & installations. We are the best, most reliable, most efficient, and most helpful oil tank removal company in Maryland. Our family has been in the tank industry for 30 years and we pride ourselves on providing you the best customer service in the industry. Call us today. 410-439-1085

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More To Explore

The Maryland Department of the Environment is cancelling the reimbursement fund for homeowners with leaking heating oil tanks!

This cancellation takes effect June 30th, 2024. You need to have your buried oil tank removed NOW, so if the tank is leaking you can get reimbursed for remediation costs before the program goes away. Click here for more information on the reimbursement fund as it operates now.

We urge everyone to contact their representatives in Annapolis and the Governors office and tell them DO NOT cancel the homeowner reimbursement fund for leaking residential oil tanks! They can still renew this program before this year’s legislative session ends.

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