Today it’s time to discuss the environmental concerns around heating oil tanks in Randallstown, MD.
To get started, let’s get on the same page about the city itself. Randallstown is a decent-sized community in Baltimore County with a population around 34,000 people.
It only has one zip code – 21133 – and several main roads running through it. The largest of those is MD-26, Liberty Rd. Randallstown is also a community with a long history dating back to the 1700s.
You know what else has a long history in Randallstown? Buried heating oil tanks!
Many properties in this area are actually older homes, which means if you are buying or selling a property in this area – as with many communities in Baltimore County – you have to be concerned that buried heating oil tanks are being used to heat the house.
To help you understand if your home is at risk, and what kind of risk, we’re diving deeper into the subject of heating oil tanks in Randallstown, MD.
The History of Heating Oil Tanks in Randallstown, MD
With so many older homes in the area, it’s important to know they were built before natural gas, geothermal, and electric heat were either a popular option – or even available!
Instead, these houses would have relied on either wood burning or coal for heat. Then in the period of approximately the 1950s – 1970s they would have switched to buried oil tanks for the heat source.
If the house was constructed in the 70s, 80s, or perhaps even in the 90s, it’s possible that the tank that was included with the house was either an Underground Storage Tank (UST) or an Aboveground Storage Tank (AST).
What To Know About USTs – Underground Storage Tanks
Let’s start with the facts about underground storage tanks:
- The lifespan of a buried tank is 20 years
- Most USTs have between 1 and 3 feet of dirt on top of them or “cover”
- The most common size residential UST is 550 gallons, though we do also see 300-gallon and 1,000-gallon buried tanks as well in this area
- Tanks are just single layer bare steel/metal, NOT double-walled and not coated or protected with anything. That means once buried they are left to rust, degrade and corrode in the soil for decades.
- USTs all have two pipes sticking out of the ground for the tank. One is the fill pipe where the oil company comes to put the oil in the tank. The other is the vent pipe, where air can escape through during the filling process. This vent pipe is frequently offset or remote, meaning it doesn’t always go directly into the tank, and is usually right up next to the house wall.
- Almost all buried tanks have two small copper oil lines coming off the top of the tank running through the basement wall and to the furnace or boiler.
What to Know About ASTs – Aboveground Storage Tanks
If you have an AST at the property, it is also possible that it is older and past its useful life, as these tanks only last about 20 years as well.
As a note, there are tanks that last longer and have longer warranties, and we’ll dive into that in detail below.
Most commonly you’ll find ASTs either inside the home, such as in your basement or crawlspace, or they could be located outside the home.
As with USTs, these aboveground tanks will also have a fill pipe and a vent pipe, while many will also have a gauge so you can see how much oil you have. There will also be one or two small copper lines coming from the tank to the furnace or boiler. One line is a supply line and if you have a second line, that is a return line.
Potential Problems With USTs
The biggest concern with any heating oil tank on the property when it is over 20 years old is a leak.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but someone has to say it: All heating oil tanks will eventually leak. It’s just a matter of when.
Yes, some of you may be thinking my grandfather had a tank that lasted 50 years or my tank at my old house was 60 years old. While it’s possible for tanks to last that long, it’s unlikely.
Also, if your tank is buried underground, you won’t know if it is leaking!
Let me say it again for those thinking this doesn’t apply to them: it’s not possible to know exactly when your underground oil tank starts leaking.
A common misconception is that you will know it leaks because the oil company will tell you, or you will see a higher oil usage, or you will stick the tank and the level doesn’t change.
In reality – and what our 30 years’ experience tells us – is that is not the case.
You know how they say, “Out of sight, out of mind”? That’s what’s happening here.
Besides, getting to the point that the property owner does know the tank is leaking means you’re encountering bad signs and the leak has gotten way worse. Folks, don’t wait till it’s too late.
Potential Problems With ASTs
It’s not just USTs that leak. If you have an AST, these can and do leak as well, and cause problems that require remediation.
If the tank is inside, obviously if it leaks you will likely see it sooner, assuming you go into the basement regularly. As long as the tank is not hidden behind a wall (which is always a bad idea), you can generally limit how bad the leak is, because you can catch it sooner.
If the tank is outside when it starts to leak, you may not catch it right away. We have to be honest here: who is looking at their tank all the time outside? So you may not notice a leak until you see staining or dead grass around the tank area.
By then the leak could already have progressed to the point where soil remediation is required.
Solutions To Your Heating Oil Tank Problems
If you’re dealing with an UST problem, here’s our takeaway: we do not recommend a tank test or soil test on an old buried tank.
They are not 100% reliable and in the end the tank has to be removed and replaced anyway.
For those of you dealing with an AST, know this: if your tank has been painted multiple times or is a clay or rust color, the tank is very old and needs to be replaced.
If you have lived at the property for close to or more than 20 years and you don’t know how old the tank is, it is time to replace it.
Let GreenTrax Help Install Your New Heating Oil Tank
Do not rely on your oil company to automatically tell you that you need to replace the tank or that you have a problem. The oil companies do not know all the rules for tanks, and they cannot tell you that your UST is leaking.
They can tell you when you have a lot of sludge build up or water in the tank, but not much else.
At GreenTrax, we can handle these problems and help you install a new aboveground tank. We have various sizes and multiple warranty options available, including warranties of 25 and 30 years.
We also offer tanks that are double-walled or double-bottomed so that you never have to worry about the tank leaking onto the ground, as any leaked oil would be contained in the second layer.
Worried about the timing? We have you covered there, too. We can get the entire process completed for you in just one day, sometimes in just a few hours.
GreenTrax can help you with anything heating oil tank related, so call us today at 410-439-1085 with any questions. We are here to help.