Photograph of sketch of parts of a buried oil tank How to Find Underground Oil Tanks - Visual Evidence of Buried Oil Tanks, Part 2
     


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Photo guide to clues of buried or abandoned oil tanks:

This is a photo guide to visual clues spotted indoors or outdoors which can assist in the location of abandoned or buried oil tanks or the detection of evidence that an underground (or even an above ground) oil tank is or was in use at a property.

The article and photographs used to show the reader ways to find buried oil tanks include examples of clues leading to the discovery of "nearly hidden" buried or underground oil tanks which were found at residential properties and which avoided very costly surprises later for the new owner.

Underground oil storage tanks, or UST's, whether still present or previously removed, involve a risk of costly oil leaks and soil contamination which may need to be addressed. Here are some investigation methods that any home buyer, owner, or home inspector can apply to reduce these risks by looking for evidence that a buried oil tank is or was at a property.

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SIGNS OF BURIED OIL TANKS- A Photo Guide to Visual Clues for Finding Buried Oil Storage Tanks - Part 2, Indoor Clues

Photograph of sketch of parts of a buried oil tank

How to find buried oil tanks: Evidence that a buried fuel storage tank exists at a property may be direct and visually obvious, or the evidence may be subtle.

Often a series of small observations, individually not apparently very important, can add up to an increased probability that a buried fuel storage tank is or was at a property.

While environmental investigators and oil tank test companies may use magnetic scanners or even ground scanning radar to locate buried steel tanks, an astute visual inspection can often discover the presence or probable presence of a buried fuel storage tank at a property, thus suggesting that further testing is definitely in order. Here are some clues to the possible current or past presence of a buried tank at a property.

Photographs of Indoor Clues for Detecting Buried Oil Tanks

Oil leak through foundation wall

Unexplained oil stains on building foundation walls
at any location might indicate that a leaky oil tank is or was outside the building near that location.

At the home where we saw this oil stain on the foundation wall of a crawl space, further investigation found that an oil tank had been leaking and had been abandoned just outside this wall.


Abandoned heating oil lines

Abandoned heating oil lines in floors
in a building may be present at or near existing oil-fired equipment, or may be at or near the previous location of such equipment.

Look for a pair of flexible copper fuel lines protruding into the basement or crawl space wall, perhaps cut off, bent-over, and crimped. The oil pipes shown in our photo at left were smashed flat and left in place on a basement floor.


Abandoned oil lines

Abandoned heating oil lines at foundation walls Here is an easy to spot pair of oil lines abandoned at a basement wall. Sometimes they're not nearly so obvious.

Piping indicating an abandoned oil tank


Evidence of under-slab oil piping now abandoned: Even where no oil pipes themselves are visible, look patches or cuts in a basement or crawl space floor slab where oil lines may have been routed under the slab, or look for a small patch in the upper or even lower portion of a basement or crawl space wall in a location where logically one might have expected to see fuel lines entering the building.

Our photo at left shows a basement slab cut in an older home in Portland Maine. The slab was poured, then later opened to route lines from an oil tank under the floor over to a heating boiler. At the time of our inspection the old boiler had been removed and a new boiler and oil tank were found in the basement. New oil lines from the oil tank to boiler passed nowhere near this floor cut. But further exploration found remains of abandoned oil supply piping.

Oil tank gauge for buried tank Oil tank lift pump Teesdale
  • Presence of antiquated oil storage tank fuel-level gauges such as we show at above-left can also indicate that oil tanks have been in use at a property for a long time. An old fuel level gauge mounted on a basement wall is a sure indicator that an oil storage tank has been buried outside of the building. You may also find abandoned heating oil filters and less commonly you may find that an indoor lift pump (above right) was added to bring oil from an outdoor buried tank into the building's oil-fired heating equipment. The right hand photo shows a Teesdale automatic oil pump which was used for this purpose.

  • Footprints of old heating equipment and even oil stains on a basement or crawl space floor may indicate that previously oil-fired equipment was present even if it is no longer at the site.

  • Records at local oil delivery companies who serve the neighborhood may indicate a history of deliveries to the site. Records of previous building inspections may also indicate this possibility.

 

 

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