What is the difference between a tank removal vs. a tank abandonment?

heating oil tank removal

Do you have an old buried heating oil tank and you are not sure what to do with it? You may have heard about “abandonment”, “closure in place”, “fill with sand”, “removal”, “pulled”, “filled in”, but you may not be sure what any of that means. Is one option better than the other? Which one is cheaper? Today we will clear up whether heating tank removal or abandonment is the best option for you.

Heating tank removal or abandonment?

First, to state the obvious difference on a removal vs. abandonment, removal is that the tank is completely removed from the ground. In the case of abandonment, the tank remains in place with holes cut in it so it is no longer a tank and then filled completely full with an inert material.

A tank abandonment, closure in place, and “filled with sand” are all the same thing. Basically it’s just a matter of it is performed by a LICENSED (by the Maryland Department of the Environment) tank removal contractor and if the job is done properly and legally including soil samples tested at a lab.

An abandonment means we dig down to the top of the tank, cut a large hole in the tank, pump out all the remaining oil and sludge, clean the tank, cut a hole in the bottom, and check the soil below the tank with a meter. So, we will know right there if the soil is clean or not. If the soil is clean, we take a soil sample, then fill the tank in place with a pea gravel or sand, backfill the hole, and spread seed & straw over the disturbed area. Then we take the soil sample to a lab for analysis, once results are received back then we provide the owner with a closure packet with all the documentation required to show the job was done properly and legally. You WILL need this information if you ever sell the house!

The biggest misconception regarding heating tank removal or abandonment is that a tank abandonment is cheaper than a tank removal, but it is actually the exact opposite. A removal is cheaper because it is faster and easier. It requires only fill dirt to fill the tank excavation hole. A closure in place is more expensive because it involves more hand work, takes longer, and requires a more expensive material to fill the tank in whether it be sand, gravel, or flowable fill concrete.

A tank removal process involves bringing a small rubber track mini-excavator to the jobsite, digging up to the top of the tank, cutting a hole in it, pumping and cleaning the tank, removing it from the ground and inspecting the tank for holes. Then we check the soil below the tank with a meter and take a soil sample. If the soil is clean, we backfill the hole with clean fill dirt and spread sed & straw over the disturbed area. We still take the sample to the lab for analysis and send the owner a closure report.

In Maryland it is legal to perform a tank abandonment in place as long as it done by a licensed tank removal contractor, however there are a few jurisdictions and scenarios that require approval BEFORE the job can be completed. If you live in Baltimore County or the City of Annapolis an approval from the inspector is required before the tank can be filled in. Usually this permission is only granted if the tank interferes with the structure of the house. If the tank is on a commercial property, if the tank at a residential property is larger than 1100 gallons in size, or if a smaller tank has found to be leaking, you need the approval of the MDE before they can be abandoned in place. If you have a tank at your house and you opt to perform an abandonment and we find the tank is leaking and it can be removed, the MDE will require it be removed. For this reason alone, that is why we always recommend a tank removal in the first place if possible.

The biggest mistakes we see homeowners make is they (#1 – the do not call GreenTRAX first!) #2 they allow their “contractor”, a friend, a plumbing company or HVAC company to perform the tank abandonment. Or #3 they try to dump sand in the fill pipe themselves. This always backfires. The tank has to be dealt with properly by an MDE licensed tank contractor, preferably GreenTRAX. When you sell the property, you WILL have to prove the tank was dealt with legally and that there is NO contaminated soil. So, if you try to hide the fact the tank was buried there and you did the work illegally, then the new owner ends up with oil in their basement from a leaking tank you could potentially be held liable for this.

So, don’t risk thousands of dollars in extra unnecessary work, Call GreenTRAX and we will perform the job correctly the first time, on time and for a reasonable cost.

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