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Do I Have A Buried Oil Tank? What Do I Do? [Answer These Questions!]

buried oil tank

Have a buried oil tank in Maryland? You’re not alone! Plenty of homeowners have had to deal with or are currently dealing with buried oil tanks. 

Given how common this concern is, we at GreenTRAX, Inc. want to help you determine if you have a buried heating oil tank and your property and what to do about it. 

Unfortunately, we cannot ask & answer every question that would determine what you have at your property, but we will provide a basic self-help guide. 

For answers specific to your situation, we do recommend that you call us to discuss your property

We can also tell many things from pictures. Email us your house address and some pics of the suspect area or pipes, or call the office to get our text-only number to text pics to and we can help you that way.

For now, follow this simple Q&A guide to find out if you have a buried oil tank, if you need to remove it, and the answers to other frequently asked questions about buried oil tanks in Maryland.

Questions to Help You Determine if You Have a Buried Oil Tank in Maryland

Question #1: Do I have 2 small diameter pipes sticking up out of the ground? (The pipes are about the size of your wrist, not your fingers, and not bigger than a softball.)

If YES, see Question #3 below. 

If NO, proceed to Question #2.

Question #2: I do not see 2 pipes outside in my yard. I only see 1 small pipe, and I do not know what it is for. 

If YES proceed to Question #3. 

If you do not see any pipes sticking out of the ground around your house proceed to Question #4 (reminder: the pipe size is smaller than your wrist).

Question #3: The single pipe, or one of the pipes, has a cap on it that looks similar to a mushroom. 

If YES, see letter “A” below. 

If NO, proceed to Question #4.

Question #4: I have 2 small copper lines (each about the size of my finger) near my furnace/boiler or water heater. These lines could also be coming through the basement wall, up through the floor, or laying in the crawlspace. These lines are cut off, capped off, crimped off or have valves or plugs on the end of them. 

If YES, it is likely the letter “A” below. 

If NO, we would need more info. Please call our office at (410) 439-1085 or email us your questions

A. This is a buried oil tank. Email us pictures of the pipe(s), or call our office at (410) 439-1085 for our text-only phone number for pictures. This text-only number is also in the voicemail recording if you call our office after-hours. 

We need pics of the pipe(s), the surrounding area, your name, address, phone number and an email address. We can send you a proposal for what needs done, or we will call/text you back with questions. There’s also more info below.

FYI – We only service MARYLAND for buried oil tanks.

Questions to Help Determine If You Need A Tank Removal or Tank Abandonment in Place

Question #5: Are you in the process of selling your property, or are you the buyer of the property? 

If YES, see letter “B” below. 

If NO, proceed to Question #6.

Question #6: Is the house located in the City of Annapolis or in Baltimore County? 

If YES, the tank needs to be removed. These locations require tank removal, if the tank can be removed, it must be. Plus, this is the less-expensive option for you. 

If NO, see Question #7. 

Question #7: Is the tank fill pipe (where the oil delivery guy puts oil in, NOT the vent pipe) located next to an AC unit? Or under a deck/porch? Or is the pipe right next to/close to a support post for a deck or carport? 

If YES, see letter “C” below. 

If NO, proceed to Question #8.

Question #8: Are both the fill & vent pipes, or just the oil fill pipe located out in the grass, yard, garden bed, mulch or stone area? Or is it just out in the open? 

If YES, it is likely cheaper and easier and is the preferred method by the MDE (Maryland Dept. of the Environment) that the oil tank be removed. 

If NO, proceed to Question #9. 

Question #9: Is the oil fill pipe located in (or if you know where the tank is regardless of the pipe location), is it located under concrete, brick pavers, blacktop, in your garage, under your basement or crawlspace floor, or under your house? 

If YES, then depending on the exact location, see letter “C” below. (Remember, this is just a guide, not a rule, so call us to discuss further.)

If NO, we need more information. Please call us to discuss at (410) 439-1085. 

B. If you know there is a buried oil (or gasoline) tank at the property and the property is being sold, the tank needs to be removed. If it can be. 

That is the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to close the deal and do what we need to do and what is proper in this instance. If this is for a real estate transaction, call us right away as time of the essence before closing. 

C. The tank may need to be abandoned in place. In order to perform a legal tank abandonment in Maryland, we have to open up the tank, clean it out, and test the soil below the tank. If the soil is clean, only then can it be filled in place (by a licensed tank contractor) with sand, gravel etc. 

Does the Tank Have To Be Dealt With? ie. Removed/Abandoned 

Question #10: Is the tank still hooked up to the heat system? 

If YES, see Question #11.

If NO, then MD State law requires that any buried tank no longer in use must be removed within 180 days/6 months once it is taken out of service. The work must be performed by a licensed tank removal contractor, not just a plumber or HVAC guy. Soil testing at a lab must also be done. 

Question #11: Was the house built before the year 2000?

If YES, See letter “D” below.

If NO, then you are at or approaching the useful lifespan of the tank and you are at a point to consider removing the buried tank and replacing it with an aboveground tank before it leaks. 

D. If your house, like many with buried oil tanks, was built between 1950 – 1990, this tank is well past its useful lifespan of 20 years. It is way past time to remove or abandon (each situation is different) the oil tank. See letter “A” above for what to do. 

Other Frequently Asked Questions about Underground Heating Oil Tanks

Question #12: Can I (the homeowner) just dump sand in the tank? 

No, that is a terrible idea. It is not legal, it doesn’t remove the oil and sludge, and you will end up costing yourself more money in the end. 

Plus, when the tank leaks it could get into your basement or well water.

Question #13: Can the tank be pumped full of foam or slurry or concrete? 

No. See letter “C” above. The concrete or slurry is MUCH more expensive than our normal abandonment process.

Question #14: Is the tank under my house because the pipes are right next to my foundation? 

No. These are what we call “REMOTE” fill & vent pipes. The tank is actually several feet or more away from the basement wall.

Question #15: The tank is right next to my foundation so I don’t want to remove it, correct? 

Incorrect. 

The majority of tanks we remove are close to or even touching the basement wall. Digging next to the wall doesn’t hurt the foundation. We have removed thousands and thousands of tanks in Maryland in this situation. 

Question #16: I just want the tank tested – is that a good idea? 

No. Unless you have proof the tank is less than 20 years old then testing is a waste of money. The tank needs to be removed or abandoned in place. The tank is likely 40+ years old so even if it passes the test this does not mean it is not leaking. We have removed tanks that have passed and they were leaking.

Question #17: Should I sell my house? – OR – Should I buy a house with a buried oil tank? 

No. Again, unless you have actual proof (e.g. pictures, receipts, etc.) showing the tank is less than 20 years old (and that is less than 1% of the properties we deal with on a yearly basis), then go through the questions above. 

Remember, the buyer may be prevented from going to settlement on a new home purchase if the buyer’s lender, bank, or mortgage company has rules against buried oil tanks. 

They also could be prevented from getting new home insurance, as we see more and more companies requiring tank removal before the buyer goes to closing. 

Plus, on some loans, like a VA or FHA, it is almost certainly required that the tank be removed before settlement. This is true if the tank is still hooked up to heat. If it’s not still hooked up, see Question #10.

Contact GreenTRAX Today For Help Removing Buried Oil Tanks in Maryland

Hopefully this guide has helped you understand your home’s oil tank situation. However, it is not meant to be all encompassing, as it will not cover all scenarios we see at properties – though it will cover a large percentage of them. 

For more information on your home’s situation, you are welcome to call us for more information 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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