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Dealing With Contaminated Soil From a Leaking Heating Oil Tank Pt.1

Leaking Heating Oil Tank

My fellow Marylanders, let me discuss with you some of the in’s & out’s of leaking heating oil tanks. It can be a very minor problem requiring little to no action on your part or the part of a professional. Or it can be very expensive to deal with, and a large disturbance to clean up.

First let me clear something up, do NOT pay attention to what you see on the internet about stories of oil cleanup costing $100,000 or more. I cannot speak to other states, today, I am strictly speaking of: RESIDENTIAL OIL TANKS, LOCATED IN MARYLAND, AND EXISTING OIL TANK LEAKS. (we re NOT speaking of someone accidentally or intentionally dumping a bunch of oil on the property, and we are NOT speaking of an oil delivery company pumping hundreds of gallons of oil into someone’s basement. Those things are a different matter, as well is commercial tanks) But in our 30 years of experience in the oil tank industry we have never seen a residential oil tank leak cost $100,000 to cleanup.

Lets get started. There are many locations the oil tank leak can occur, and since there are more locations than we will cover here today, stay tuned for part 2, to follow in 2 weeks.

  1. From a buried tank, underground storage tank (UST)
  2. From a tank in your basement
  3. A tank in your garage
  4. A tank outside the home
  5. Tank under a porch
  6. A tank in your crawlspace
  7. A tank under the house

We wont go into great detail with each location but just 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.

UST’s – buried home heating oil tanks

This is the most common type of leak we deal with. If an underground storage tank leaks at your house, we do NOT have to dig up the entire yard, no, no one is tearing your house down and no your home insurance will not cover it. What we do have to do when the buried tank leaks is to excavate down deeper below the tank, test the soil and remove as much of the contaminated dirt, as reasonably possible, below where the bottom of where the tank was. We are not looking to get every single drop of contaminated soil, as that is not reasonable, practical or affordable. We have to remediate the “source” of the problem, and the worst stuff. We evaluate and check this soil onsite using a meter to gauge the soil and see how much oil is in the dirt roughly. The contaminated soil we dig out the day of the tank removal cannot be hauled away the same day, so we will stockpile it on plastic and then cover it up with plastic until we have that soil tested and come back another day to load up the dirt onto a dumptruck. But you will not have a giant hole in your yard the entire time, we will fill the hole back in the same day we are doing the work.

Most remediation jobs are completed in just a few hours. The work is completed, typically using a mini-excavator and skidsteer(bobcat). Greentrax makes this process quick and efficient with as little disturbance as possible.

AST (Aboveground Storage Tank) – In a basement

If you are living in the house, able bodied and go in the basement regularly, this type of leak is usually caught fairly quickly once it happens. Oil tanks do not “burst” so the leaks start as a weep, then grow to a slop drip of oil, then larger drops more frequent. So a person will usually smell the oil or see it on the floor once it happens. If the tank is enclosed behind a wall, that is a terrible idea, make a hole or door into that space now for access and inspection. Usually the leaks of these tanks can be dealt with on just the cleaning level. Meaning, cleaning the concrete floor, airing out the basement or house by opening windows. Frequently the homeowner can deal with cleanup themselves, or when Greentrax comes to remove the tank we can deal with this. (Note: the tanks must always be removed by a licensed professional company who knows how to handle and properly dispose of the oil. NEVER hire a junk company or scrap company to remove your oil tank!) Occasionally if the leak onto the concrete floor is present awhile, then sometimes the only thing that can be done is to break up and remove a section of the concrete floor, dig out the contaminated soil, haul it out in 5 gallon buckets, haul it away to a proper disposal facility, backfill the hole with gravel and then replace the concrete.

If the tank leaks and is close to the sump pump basin, so the oil has gotten into the pit, that can be a bigger problem if the oil gets into the sump pump and is discharged to the outside, now the problem has grown and contaminated soil outside may have to be dug out outside. Your sump pump basin and the sump pump could also have to be replaced.

An aboveground Tank in your garage

Luckily this is not one we have to spend a lot of time on, because if the tank is located inside your garage, this is 1 place most people are likely going into several times a week if not several times a day. As this means your garage is most likely connected to your house and you either park in it or use it as another pantry, or overflow storage. So when these tanks start to leak they are usually able to be caught right away before they cause a problem. So if you see your tank leaking call Greentrax, your oil company or the Maryland Dept. of the Environment right away to pump out the oil tank.

 If the tank is anywhere in the garage a vehicle could strike it, then the tank must be protected by steel pipe bollards to prevent a serious problem.

If you should have a buried oil tank under your garage or carport then the same rules generally apply as if the tank is outside in your yard. But call us for details on this scenario.

Well folks that’s all the time we have today, check back with us next time for the continuation of this topic.

Greentrax, Inc


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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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