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Dealing With Contaminated Soil From A Leaking Heating Oil Tank Pt. 2

Leaking Heating Oil Tank

Folks, last time we discussed what happens when an oil tank leaks in three areas:

  1. From a buried tank, underground storage tank (UST)
  2. From a tank in your basement
  3. A tank in your garage

Today, we will complete our discussion with four additional areas a home heating oil tank can leak, along with what happens with each:

  1. A tank outside the home
  2. Tank under a porch
  3. A tank in your crawlspace
  4. A tank under the house

We won’t go into great detail with each location. Instead, we’ll give you a general idea of what can happen and what to expect. As always, call us for more information and we can explain it to you further. 

How To Deal With A Leaking Aboveground Heating Oil Tank Outside Your House

I already know what you are thinking, “Hey, listen, I know you are not going to talk about a simple little tank leak outside, are you? It’s outside and I would see it (e.g. catch it) right away. Or the oil delivery company will tell me when it leaks, so it will not be a big deal!” 

Well, my dear blog reader …….AAAAGGRRHHHHHHH. 

You would be wrong. 

Contrary to popular belief, no, you are not outside looking at your tank all the time, and no, you will not see it as soon as it starts (unless maybe its on a concrete pad, you would see a stain), and no, the oil company will not automatically look at your tank to check for leaks every time they come to deliver oil. 

Most people will not notice the leak until one of three things happens: you will see dead grass or vegetation around the tank, you smell a strong oil smell outside, or you smell oil in the house, and/or you have oil in the sump pump pit in the basement.

If you end up with an oil smell in your house because the oil is coming through the basement foundation wall, or if it gets into the sump pump this will add additional costs to the project. 

What’s important to know is that a leaking oil tank outside can be more expensive to perform remediation than a buried tank. This is because AST (aboveground storage tank) leaks always start in the bottom. 

The tank corrodes and degrades from the inside out. You will never know the condition of the tank by looking at the outside. The leak starts as a small weep (a wet or damp bottom) and then grows to a pinhole or multiple holes. 

The oil continues to drip 24-7, seeping down into the ground and spreading out. 

Outside oil tank leaks can be very costly for homeowners to pay to clean up. If you are on well water, or if the well is in the vicinity of the leak, the oil can even seep into the groundwater and get into your drinking water. 

These types of leaks can necessitate excavating out one or several dump truck loads of contaminated soil. 

On top of all that, most home insurance companies do not cover these oil tank leaks. That means the homeowner is on the hook to pay thousands of dollars out of pocket. An

We have seen tanks leak and contaminate the neighbors property also. If your AST is 12-15 years old or older, get it replaced now. Do not wait. 

The rule of thumb used to be 20 years for an outside tank. That is no longer the case. Tanks are made differently now and the heating fuel we use is also not the same. 

More often nowadays, we do see some tanks less than 20 years old leak. Call us at (410) 439-1085 for more info on this topic.

How To Deal With A Leaking Aboveground Heating Oil Tank Under A Porch

Now, what should you do if you find that the aboveground heating oil tank under your porch is leaking? 

If the leak in this case is not too bad, this could be digging out contaminated dirt by hand with shovels and removing it with wheel barrows or using five-gallon buckets. 

If the leak is bad, this could be the same scenario as I just described above for an outside tank leak. Only now if the leak is bad, the porch will have to be partly or completely removed, or even demolished, meaning you’ll have that added expense on top of the other stuff as described above.

How To Deal With A Leaking Aboveground Heating Oil Tank Inside A Crawlspace

For this topic we will be focused on tanks in the crawlspace that are completely aboveground. 

For the record, if the tank is 10% or more buried in the dirt, it has to be considered (per state law) as a buried tank, and a different process applies.

First, the tank has to be removed. It will likely have to be cut into pieces for removal after it is pumped out. GreenTRAX does this all the time, so that part is standard. 

The majority of tanks we see in crawl spaces are dirt floors not concrete. We are speaking of small areas you have to get into on your hands and knees, not walk-in crawl spaces (see our prior blog about tanks in basements for that situation) since no one goes in the crawlspace frequently.

If you have a tank like this in your crawlspace I can guarantee it’s over 20 years old. Do not delay – call now to have it removed. 

When a tank leaks in your crawl space, this is a difficult area to work in because it is tight. (No, the house will not have to be torn down, that doesn’t happen). 

The contaminated soil has to be excavated and removed with small shovels and one five-gallon bucket at a time. This is obviously labor intensive and a slow process. 

We have also seen cases where a hole had to be cut in the floor above in order to allow access to the work space, but that is not a common case. 

How To Deal With A Leaking Aboveground Heating Oil Tank Under The House

Now we are talking about heating oil tanks that are not in the basement and not in the crawlspace but actually under the house. This is usually a slab on grade, as tanks are not located under people’s basement floors. 

This situation usually happens when a contractor or builder does something stupid like build an addition on top of a buried oil tank that was previously buried in the yard, which is now under the house (as if tanks last forever or something…).


You should know that it is not legal to pump the tank full of something through the fill pipe, and even if it were, that process does not remove the oil. 

The only way to deal with this is to cut a hole in the floor and dig to the top of the tank and then abandon the tank through proper methods. This includes sampling the soil below the tank and testing it for leaks. 

If the tank is leaking, the tank may have to be cut in pieces to remove it by hand (if possible) and hand dig out the soil with shovels and five-gallon buckets. This leaking tank situation is not only costly but also is a big disturbance to the function of your house while the work is going on. 

Besides GreenTRAX working onsite for the tank abandonment/removal and cleanup/remediation, now you are involving a carpenter, possibly a flooring company, and a concrete company to patch the concrete floor. 

However, the tank cannot stay as is forever, it has to be dealt with properly by a licensed tank removal company like GreenTRAX.

Work With GreenTRAX To Help Remove Your Leaking Heating Oil Tank

If you suspect that your heating oil tank is leaking, if your tank is between 12-15 years old (and definitely if it’s 20 or more!), or if you have signs of oil leakage, please don’t wait to call GreenTRAX. 

We have over 25 years of experience working as fuel tank removal contractors. We offer fast same day estimates and proposals to get you the information you need right away to make a decision. 

Call us today for more information on any scenarios we have described in this blog at (410) 439-1085, or send us a message here.

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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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