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What It Takes To Legally Fill An Oil Tank In Place

fill an oil tank

Today I’ll be talking about the process of filling oil tanks in place, otherwise known as a tank abandonment in place. We have touched on this subject before in a prior blog, but we wanted to revisit this topic because questions come up all the time from Maryland homeowners like yourself. 

First and foremost, abandoning a tank does NOT mean you stop using it and leaving it there as-is. 

A proper, legal tank abandonment also does NOT mean you yourself as the homeowner dump sand in the fill pipe (this is a very bad idea). 

Finally, it does NOT mean you have your plumber or HVAC company fill the tank with sand. These companies are NOT licensed by the MDE for tank removal and abandonments. 

To perform a legal tank abandonment-in-place in Maryland, the Maryland Dept. of the Environment has set out certain rules that must be followed. Our advice? Follow them, because if you don’t you’ll certainly have to if you ever want to sell your house. When you do it properly the first time, you will save yourself money in the long run. 

Generally speaking, and contrary to what most people think, a tank abandonment is not actually cheaper than a removal. In our experience as Maryland’s most reliable tank removal contractor, a tank removal is usually the preferred method to deal with buried heating oil tanks. Still, each house, location, and yard can be different so call us to discuss. You can reach us at  (410) 439-1085.

When Tank Abandonment Is The Only Option For Your Heating Oil Tank

There are certain times when a tank abandonment has to be done. This includes:

  • If your oil tank is located underneath your house
  • If an addition was built over top of the tank
  • If it’s located buried in your crawlspace, or 
  • If it’s buried under a garage floor or inside a covered porch or sunroom

These are situations where the tank will likely not be able to be removed. One exception to this is if the tank is very small, like a 275-gallon tank, and it has leaked. If there is room to work, we can cut the tank up in pieces by hand in the ground to remove it. 

Even if your tank is located under your house, the MDE still requires the tank be dealt with properly. This means the tank cannot be filled through the fill pipe. 

It’s required that we dig to the top of the tank to clean it first. When it comes to these cases indoors, we have had to remove the floor covering in that room, whether its carpet, hardwood, laminate, etc. After that, we jackhammer a small hole in the floor to the top of the tank and proceed with the abandonment process. 

The Common Steps For A Tank Abandonment In Place

Now let’s discuss a few of the general steps for a tank abandonment in place.

  1. Hand dig up to the top of the tank
  2. Cut open and clean tank of all oil and residue
  3. Cut hole(s) in bottom of tank and test the soil below tank with meter onsite
  4. Obtain soil samples and have tested at lab
  5. Fill tank 100% with inert material (gravel, sand, flowable fill concrete)
  6. Backfill the excavation
  7. Once lab test results are received compile a tank closure report

That’s obviously a simplified version of the work, but it gives you a general idea. The most important takeaway here is that this is not something a homeowner can do themselves. The oil handling and disposal, cleaning of the tank, the soil testing, and lab test all require a professional to perform the work. 

However, if during the tank abandonment process we see the tank has leaked and there is contaminated soil, then we have to stop work. If the tank can be removed, it must be removed. What we mean is that if there is a way to get a machine to the area, regardless of landscaping, the tank has to be removed in order to dig out contaminated soil.

When Filling A Tank In Place Is Preferred

There are all sorts of reasons why someone may want or need to have their heating oil tank abandoned in place instead of removed. 

It could be personal preference, cosmetic reasons, landscaping, structural, or something else. One problem that always requires abandonment is if some company has installed main electric lines (BGE/Pepco, etc.) over top of the tank. The same is true if there are natural gas lines over the top of the tank. 

Other sites such as a townhouse may require filling the tank in place as opposed to removal, too. Say you have a buried oil tank in the front yard of your townhouse (and yes, we deal with plenty of townhouse communities that have UST’s in the front yards). 

The space in a townhouse yard is very limited and may even result in impacting your neighbors property, so filling the tank in place, (e.g. a proper tank abandonment) would be a better option to try in the first place. The other common concern is that underground utilities also run in the front yard close to the tank, so we have to be mindful of those, too. 

Once the job is completed and we receive the lab test results back showing your soil is clean, we will put together a closure package. This will include things like pictures of the steps of the job, lab test results, and more. This is especially important if and when you decide to sell the property because you will have proof the work was done legally and that the soil is clean. 

Why The Seller Is Responsible For Dealing With Their Oil Tank Before Selling A Home

We here at GreenTRAX deal with tanks all over Maryland and see situations of all kinds related to buried tanks, especially when it comes time to sell the home. 

If your underground storage tank is no longer in use for heating the house, it is state law that you have to have the tank removed or abandoned in place within six months from when you stop using it. 

If you are selling the house and the tank IS still in use, then 99% of the time the SELLER has to deal with the tank before closing. The buyers, or the buyers’ agent or real estate agent, will tell you this needs done before closing. Frequently, the home buyers’ lender, bank, mortgage company, or their home insurance company can require this work be completed before closing. 

This is due to the environmental impact if the tank has leaked. After all, leaking tanks do not just impact the soil. Oil can impact the groundwater, the well water, get into the basement, or the sump pump pit. In extreme cases, the oil can contaminate your neighbors’ basement or well water. 

No one wants to be on the receiving end of a lawsuit because you left your buried tank in the ground forever and the oil impacted your neighbors’ property. 

For Help Dealing With Your Underground Storage Tank, Call GreenTRAX

We here at GreenTRAX are here to help you through the process and answer your questions. The work may sound complicated when you’re not familiar with it, but we’re here to make the process as straightforward as possible. 

We deal with this every day, and have been for over 25 years. For any questions you may have about oil tanks and oil tank removals, give us a call at (410) 439-1085 or send us a message here.

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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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