So the heating oil delivery company just tried to fill up the buried heating oil tank today, and the delivery driver told me they could not fill the tank anymore. What does this mean? What caused this? What can I do if my oil company can’t fill my underground tank anymore? Or perhaps they delivered oil to the tank, but the office called and said this was the last time until you can get the tank fixed, so how does that work? Let’s look at these individually.
They will not fill the tank – OK, WHY? The Maryland Department of the Environment regulates the oil delivery companies (in Maryland). So they have many rules they have to follow when delivering home heating oil to underground tanks. Some of these involve your tank at your house directly, and if there are problems with the tank, they are not allowed to deliver you oil.
What are some of these problems?
- It could be the fill pipe is broken or rusted.
- It could be the vent pipe is broken or rusted thru.
- It could be the whistle on the tank is broken.
- There could be visible evidence the tank is leaking, such as dead vegetation, oil & water overflowing out of the top of the fill pipe.
To be clear, the underground tank has a fill pipe that transfers oil from the truck to the tank. As the delivery driver fills the tank, the air in the tank has to escape; that is what the vent pipe is for. Typically, the vent pipe has a cap on it that looks like a mushroom.
There is a whistle that is screwed into the top of the tank. So as air comes out of the vent pipe, it “whistles,” and when the tank is full, the oil touches the bottom of the whistle, and the noise stops. That is how the driver knows when the tank is full. Hence, if you do not have a functioning fill pipe AND a vent pipe with a working whistle, the oil delivery cannot occur.
What are the causes?
Tanks that have been in the ground for decades can rust. Other possible causes include rusted whistle and bad vent pipe. Irrespective of the reason, if you can’t get an oil delivery and you need it, that is a problem. If your underground tank is over 20 years old, it is NOT worth trying to fix, replace or repair the tank, vent, or whistle.
The average life span of a buried tank is 20 years, so if the tank is older than that, it is time to remove the tank AND replace it with a new aboveground heating oil tank. If you have problems with the underground tank, such as a broken vent, broken whistle, sludge build-up to the point where the heat stops, these are indications that the tank should not be used anymore.
The tank, the whistle, the fill, and the vent pipe are all made of steel. So if one of them is rusted, what do you think the rest of the tank looks like?
Depending on the situation, the whistle replacement can cost almost half of the amount to remove the tank. And there is no guarantee the replacement will work. So it could be a big gamble or waste of money trying to fix a tank that is past its useful life, has a high probability of leaking, and is already having problems. You could pay to fix the vent pipe today, and then tomorrow the tank will have water in it and shuts the heat off. So it is not worth the cost to replace the whistle on a tank that is over 20 years old when your best plan is to remove and replace the tank.
Third, we will need to install a new aboveground tank, or you will need to convert to a different heat source. But that is a big investment expense to replace the furnace with a new type of heat, whether electric, natural gas, or propane. AND the buried oil tank MUST also be removed. No matter what you choose to do, you cannot leave it in place and forget about it. The MDE requires you to remove any tank that is no longer in use.
So to summarize – if you’re one of the many people saying oil companies can’t fill my underground tank anymore, call GreenTRAX. It is not worth repairing an old buried tank, and there is no guarantee we can replace the whistle. If your tank has problems, the best course of action is to remove and replace the tank.
If you are not sure what to do, we are here to help. We will answer all of your questions and explain everything to you.