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Is Your Buried Oil Tank Too Close to Your Foundation? Here’s What You Can Do

buried oil tank

“I cannot remove my buried oil tank because it’s close to my foundation, so it will have to be filled in place.” Is something we hear a lot but not always true.

Good day to all my fellow Marylanders. In this blog I would like to discuss a topic that concerns us here at Greentrax and a common thing we hear all the time not just from the homeowners, but also real estate agents as well. That is, people tell us the oil tank is right next to the house, basement wall, or foundation and therefore cannot be removed, it must be abandoned in place or filled in place. And believe me I understand the logic and thought process.

You may think that by digging close to the foundation you will damage the foundation? But let me ask you a question……… How do you think they got the tank installed in that location in the first place? Let me ask you 3 more questions. How does a plumber replace a broken underground water line up to the house? Or how does the plumber fix that broken sewer line coming out of the basement wall? How does an exterior basement waterproofing company replace the exterior waterproofing on the house foundation?

The answer to all 4 questions? Someone had to dig up the area with a machine, complete their job and then backfill the hole. So, when you think about it, there are lots of reasons why you may have to have a company perform excavation along the foundation wall. And if you have a skilled equipment operator there are no risks to the basement foundation in doing so.

Let’s talk through a couple of scenarios that we see. First the UST (underground storage tank) oil fill pipe may be 2, 3, 4, or more feet away from the basement wall. But the air vent pipe is right against and touching the wall. This is one of the most common types we see. This means the fill pipe is direct and goes straight into the tank. The vent pipe is remote or has two 90-degree bends in the pipe to go away from the tank and is therefore NOT direct. This means the tank is usually, but not always, parallel with the foundation and is likely 1, 2, 3 or more feet away from the wall.

The 2nd thing you could see is where the UST fill pipe AND the vent pipe are both against the basement wall touch the wall. This makes many people think the tank is touching or up against the foundation wall. This is when they call us to tell us they want the tank abandoned/filled in place. However, like we said above in this scenario BOTH pipes are remote, and the tank is still likely a few to several feet away from the foundation.

Let me tell you a little secret, when you hire Greentrax to perform the work for you. You not only get the best oil tank removal company in the great state of Maryland. But you also get a company that has removed thousands and thousands of buried oil tanks, most all of them very close to and some of them even up against and touching the foundation. So you can rest assured knowing that we will handle the tank removal professionally and efficiently and your foundation will be the same as we found it.

Here’s something else, we have performed leaking tank soil remediation/excavation right next to the foundation and even dug way deeper than the footing to complete the work. And everything turned out just fine, we know how to judge the soils and see if its safe to do that. Because the truth is we are not digging up along the entire side of the wall. We are only digging in a small area usually between 4 feet and 12 feet wide. And exposing the basement wall and even going deeper that the footing causes no harm to the structure of the house. Mainly because we are only working in a small area. We don’t have to do this, but did you know you can even tunnel under the footing in small areas and everything is still fine.

The key to all of this work is not to undermine the footing. Meaning you do not want to expose and dig under the footing/foundation wall in a large area and leave no support UNDER the footing/foundation. That is what causes problems. But digging next to the foundation is fine.

But maybe you say, “Mr. Blogwriter, I got all that, but why not just abandon the tank in place”? And I would have to say, we certainly can…… try. It is better and preferred to remove the tank, but we can do an abandonment in place if you would like to. In most all cases it is more expensive to abandon the tank in place instead of removing it, AND if during the abandonment process we find the oil tank has leaked and there is contaminated soil. Then the tank must be removed anyway so we can excavate the contaminated soil. This is required by the State MDE (Maryland Department of the Environment). If the tank is leaking and it CAN be removed, it MUST be removed, so the contaminated soil can be remediated. There are certain scenarios when the tanks cannot be removed, then the MDE, may require additional/other work which will cost more money to deal with.

However, if the buried tank is clean and not leaking and you want to abandon it, we can do that, no problem. As long as you are NOT located in Baltimore County or the City of Annapolis. (They have different rules for abandonment of tanks, we have discussed in other blogs prior)

Quick note: The important thing to know, if you are concerned about the tank being under a patio, deck, driveway, sidewalk or in the middle of a bunch of landscaping. We still must perform digging even to abandon the tank. It is not legal anymore in MD to pump any foam, sand, slurry etc into the fill pipe to abandon the tank. The tank must be cleaned out first and soil samples be taken of the dirt below the tank. So the only way to do that is to dig up the top of the tank. It would just usually be by hand with shovels instead of with equipment.

Thank you for your time today, as always if you have any further questions, contact Greentrax or give us a call at 410-439-1085 we are here to help.

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