Today we are looking at you, Halethorpe, Arbutus, and Catonsville. Heck, we’ll even throw in part of Baltimore City, too – but just the zip code 21229.
However, we will keep our focus specifically on the following three zip codes:
“Why these 3 zip codes, Mr. GreenTrax?”
“Well, Betty & Bobby Blogreader, I will tell you!”
GreenTrax works in the heating oil tank business all over the great State of Maryland. In that time, we’ve discovered some interesting trends.
Much like how the City of Annapolis has oil tank “situations” unlike anywhere else in Maryland, we have also found homeowners in zip codes 21227, 21228, and 21229 also have unique “situations” when compared to other parts of Maryland.
Specifically in the areas of Baltimore county like Catonsville, Halethorpe & Arbutus, and like I said, a small piece of Baltimore City sneaks in there as well.
“Why are we so different?”
Well, I’m fixin’ to tell ya right now.
Why Catonsville, Halethorpe, Arbutus, and Baltimore Oil Tanks Are Unusual
What sets the oil tanks in these cities apart from other areas is that you have what we call Hidden Oil Tanks. HOTs. That’s not really an acronym we use, I just made that up.
Anyway, they appear to be underground tanks but are actually aboveground tanks. These types of tanks have commonly been seen under your porches or kept hidden inside a block vault with a concrete cover on top.
Come to think of it, there’s also one particular neighborhood around the Sulphur Spring Rd & Shelbourne Rd area off Southwestern Blvd where we know for a fact that many homes there still have tanks under their front porch.
How To Identify So-Called Hidden Underground Oil Tanks
First, you’ll notice the oil tank filler tube and vent pipe (yes, two pipes close together) sticking out through the side of a porch wall, block wall, brick wall or basement wall.
The key here is that there is no corresponding heating oil tank in the basement. Let me also state I am talking about tanks that have NO ACCESS.
To be clear, not all tanks in these zip codes are like this. In fact, Catonsville & Halethorpe still have plenty of buried oil tanks or UST’s, or Underground Storage Tanks. You may even be lucky and have an easy situation where the tank is just freestanding outside or in the basement.
Still, oil tanks are usually rated to last 20 years and if your tank was installed under the porch when the house was built (which was a terrible idea by the way, for whoever built these houses), then your tank is most likely 40+ years old.
What To Do If Your Home’s Oil Tank Is Under The Porch
We want our readers & customers to be aware that in our many years of experience we have found some atypical oil tanks in these neighborhoods. We know you could have a tank under your porch.
Now, what should you do about it?
Here are three things you DO NOT want to do:
- Forget about it and never deal with it
- Just cap off the 2 pipes and leave the tank
- Have someone try to fill the tank with concrete slurry through the fill pipe
Question: So why not forget about the tank, leave it in place, and have a new tank installed somewhere else?
Answer: Because you will never be able to pump this tank out, even if you remove as much oil as you can. There will still be sludge left in the bottom that will leak out.
Unfortunately, every single tank we have been called to handle in zip codes – 21227, 21228, and 21229 – have all been tanks that were leaking. This is bad because if you wait for the tank to begin to leak, the only way you’ll know there’s a problem is when you start to smell oil in your basement, see it seeping through the walls, or find oil in your sump pump.
All of these things are bad.
Why Simply Filling The Tank Is Not A Solution
If you were to try and have someone fill this tank with concrete or flowable fill, this could end very badly for you and your house.
The tank is a freestanding tank, not buried in the dirt. It is typically sitting inside of a block “room” or vault and is usually situated on a concrete slab. Not only will you still have oil and sludge in the tank when they start to fill it, but the tank has been sitting there for 30, 40, 50 years, or more and the steel of the tank is very thin and weak.
As soon as someone begins to fill this thin, metal cylinder with pressurized concrete, it’s very likely the tank under your porch will explode! If that occurs, then all the oil and sludge will leak out into the void under the porch. Meanwhile, the guy filling it will not even be aware the tank exploded and will keep pushing concrete into the pipe.
As a result, the open space under the porch begins to fill up fast. Since you have no visibility or access to this area, it’s the perfect recipe for disaster.
The same situation can also occur if the oil company were to come and perform a regular oil delivery.
These oil trucks use high-pressure pumps. A 275-gallon tank is already a thin gauge of steel, but after 40-plus years of rusting, corrosion and degradation, the metal gets even thinner.
So what happens if you have a nickel or quarter-sized hole in your oil tank? How would I know if there is one?
You wouldn’t be able to tell because the tank is 100% enclosed and you can’t see it. Now you’re faced with a scenario where the delivery guy is new and doesn’t know what size tank you have. So the trusty oil flow meter on the truck goes well past 275 gallons and he just keeps filling. And filling. And filling…
But didn’t you say you wanted to have a heated oil swimming pool next to your basement wall? Because that’s exactly what you’ll have!
All Jokes aside, this would be bad, extremely bad. You may have to move out of your house during the cleanup.
The Right Way To Deal With Replacing A Heating Oil Storage Tank
The correct and only way to replace an oil tank is to break up the concrete cover on top of this void space, cut an opening in the tank and pump out all the oil and sludge.
Afterward, we will inside the tank with water, cut it into smaller pieces and carefully remove it. Best case scenario, the tank was not already leaking and the void space can be filled.
If there is a concrete floor the tank was sitting on, it should also be broken up to allow for drainage. Then the space would be filled with dirt or crusher run. Finally, a concrete company or masonry contractor would repair the concrete slab on top.
Through it all, you’ll have the fun of not being able to use your front door for a few days. It certainly beats the swimming pool alternative I told you about, doesn’t it?
If you have a tank, or suspect you have a tank under your porch, and it is not accessible, don’t take any risks, contact the heating oil tank experts at GreenTrax, Inc. We are here to help. You can call us at (410) 439-1085.