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How To Deal With Leaking Heating Oil Tanks In Maryland

Leaking Home Heating Oil Tanks

Leaking home heating oil tanks can be a big problem in Maryland, especially if you ignore them or call the wrong company to try to deal with the issue. 

Here at GreenTRAX, Inc., we will put our many years of expertise and know-how to work for you and perform the required remediation quickly, efficiently, and professionally – with as little impact to your budget as possible. 

Just what is involved with a leaking heating oil tank, and what needs to be done about it? We’re sharing our insights with you today to help make sure you’re prepared in case it ever happens to you.

The First Signs You’re Dealing With A leaking Home Heating Oil Tank

A leaking residential (home) heating oil tank could happen in one of 4 locations: 

  • Underground
  • Outside aboveground
  • In your basement
  • In a crawlspace

An underground leak is the most common type of leak we see because no one knows it is leaking. Actually, you might be surprised, because we do deal with a ton of aboveground leaks, too, where even though the leak can be seen, many people still don’t catch it right away. 

The worst kind of leaks are the ones that start outside then end up inside. That is bad. What we mean is that if your underground tank or your outside aboveground tank leaks badly enough, the oil and the smell of heating oil can end up coming through your basement wall, getting into the drain tile (French drain) around the foundation, and even into the sump pump basin. 

All of these scenarios are bad and expensive to deal with. That’s why we regularly advise customers to replace their old heating oil tanks with modern, newer ones.

When To Replace Your Heating Oil Tank

Any tank over 20 years old should be replaced, period. 

It doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that, honestly. Some homeowners push back because they worry it’s going to cost them an arm and a leg, but a heating oil tank is NOT something that costs ten thousand dollars to replace.

That said, if you wait for the tank to leak, then it is something that CAN cost ten thousand dollars OR MORE to clean up. 

Our advice: just replace it before it gets to that point. 

To help identify heating oil tanks that need to be replaced, we’re highlighting several common scenarios.

Your Home Has A Buried Oil Tank

If you have a buried oil tank, the tank is almost certainly just as old as the house. 

Unless you are in one of the over 100-year-old houses we see in certain counties in Maryland, then the tank was likely installed when they switched from coal to oil between the 1950s and the 1970s. 

That means it is way past the useful life of the tank. Buried tanks are not protected or coated with anything, so they are just steel buried in the ground, rusting and degrading for decades. To make matters more complicated, the tanks tend to degrade from the inside out, which means it’s not a matter of if the tank will leak, but when. 

Your Home Has An Oil Tank In The Basement

If you have a tank in your basement and it starts to leak, let’s hope it’s in an area that people frequently go to. If people spot the leak right away, you can call to get it taken care of before the leak gets worse. 

What if the tank was enclosed behind walls and you can’t see it? Or what if the homeowner is elderly and hardly goes into the basement? Or what happens if you are on vacation or live somewhere else for months at a time? 

Then it’s time to call GreenTRAX, Inc.

Your Home Has An Oil Tank In The Crawlspace

If you have a tank in your crawlspace, I can guarantee you are not going in there very much. 

It’s likely that when the tank starts to leak you won’t know until you start to smell oil on the first floor of the house. 

Your Home Has An Oil Tank Outside

If your heating oil tank is located outside, you may be thinking, “Well, I go outside enough, I will see when it starts to leak!” Right? Sorry, wrong again. 

Some of our worst leaks we deal with are aboveground outside tank leaks! 

Yes, people go outside, but they are just not looking at the tank very often. And you cannot rely on your oil delivery company to catch a leak. 

What if the oil delivery driver is on his phone the whole time he fills the tank? Or if the tank is partially blocked by bushes, plants or a fence? 

Heating oil tank leaks start as a small weep, then a slow drip, then a steady drip, then a fast drip. Many people don’t notice the outside tank leaks until they smell it or the grass and surrounding vegetation starts to die. 

Unless the tank is on a concrete pad, those first drips just go straight down in the ground and get soaked up by the soil. Then with rain or snow it gets diluted on the surface and spreads out across the ground. 

Through it all, the oil is soaking in the ground. It is just going deeper and deeper. The oil can easily get to depths of four feet, eight feet or even 12 feet below the ground surface in just a matter of weeks (depending on the type of soil around your property).

What To Do If You Have A Leaking Home Heating Oil Tank

So what to do? First, the Maryland Dept. of the Environment must be notified. 

Once the oil is in the dirt, it has to be excavated (dug out) and hauled off site to a special disposal facility. Soil tests have to be taken and the area must be backfilled with clean fill dirt. If the leak is next to your house, yes, it still has to be dug up – and NO, the digging will not compromise your foundation. 

If the oil leak occurs and the contaminated dirt is under your deck, under your patio, under your concrete driveway, around your nice trees or bushes or within your nice landscaped area, guess what? 

Part of the deck has to be removed, the patio pavers have to be removed, the concrete has to be sawcut and broken up, the tree will have to be removed, the bushes have to be removed and or the landscaped area has to be disturbed. 

So why risk all that? Just have the tank replaced BEFORE it leaks! 

What if the tank is in your crawlspace? Do I have to demolish the house? NO! But we do have to dig out contaminated soil with shovels and 5-gallon buckets to remove as much as we safely can. 

Dealing With Insurance For Heating Oil Tank Removal

In most cases, your home insurance WILL NOT cover your oil tank leak. Very few home insurance policies cover heating oil tanks and leaks. 

Usually you have to have a special rider or separate policy to cover oil tank leaks, but if you are not sure, call your agent and ask. If you need or want to get insurance for your tank, GreenTRAX, Inc.  works with a special insurance company that provides insurance policies for heating oil tank customers. Just call us for details. 

Let GreenTRAX Help With Your Heating Oil Tank Replacement

If you have a tank leak, call GreenTRAX today and we will take care of everything for you. As a note, Maryland does have a partial reimbursement fund to help you get some of your money back for tank leaks.

To learn more about the MDE Homeowner Reimbursement Fund’s new rules For 2023 & Beyond, click here.

If you do not have a tank leak yet and would like to get your buried tank removed and replaced, or your aboveground or basement tank replaced, GreenTRAX will take care of this for you as well. 

We offer many warranty options for tanks as well as size options. We do hundreds of tanks every year, so let us put our expertise to work for you. 

You can reach us at Greentrax, Inc. (410) 439-1085 or send us a message through our website.

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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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