Photograph of sketch of parts of a buried oil tank How to Use Site History or Home Heating Equipment Records to Find Evidence of Underground Oil Tanks
     


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Building & site history can give evidence of a buried or abandoned oil storage tank:

This is guide to finding buried oil storage tanks by using site records, oil company delivery notes, as well as visual inspection. This article assists property buyers, owners, and inspectors in the location of 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.

Here are 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. Also see Above Ground Oil Tanks: Visual Inspection.

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Oil Tank Site History Reivew can help determine if buried oil tanks are or have been at a property

Pipe indicates buried oil tankBuried Tanks: Look at the property before deciding to hire a tank testing company for professional inspection and testing. You can obtain basic information such as the age (property and tank), tank location, and type of oil tank.

From a previous use, a buried oil tank may be present or may have been present at a property even if it is now served by an indoor, above ground oil tank or even by LP or natural gas. So don't assume that because you don't see a tank that none was ever used or present at a property. Make a visual site inspection for clues suggesting that one or more tanks is or was present.

Even an alert home buyer or home inspector, not charged with an environmental site survey (nor paid for one) might discover evidence of very costly buried tank problems at a property, simply by attending certain visual details and thinking about what they mean.

For the case of buried oil tanks, the next few photographs show two cases of the discovery of a nearly-hidden outside oil tank fill pipe which led to the discovery of buried oil tanks. These tanks had not been properly abandoned, risking significant cost to the property owner or buyer.

REVIEW OIL TANK HISTORY - Oil Storage Tank History and Tips Assess the Leak Risk

Old heating oil tank being removed (C) Daniel FriedmanHow old is the present oil tank? Tanks approaching 15 to 20 years old have a much greater risk of leaks.

If there is no oil tank at the property now, has the heating fuel been converted from oil to gas?

Do oil companies in the area have records of having delivered oil to the property? If so, the quantity delivered and tank size information will be on file as well as notes about the tank filler pipe location. If the oil company was hired to remove or abandon the oil tank they should have that data as well.

How old is the property? A property more than 30 years old might have had two or more generations of oil tanks at the site. Sometimes local oil delivery companies will check their records of deliveries to a property and can tell you if there were other tanks at other locations at the site.

How many property owners have there been? More owners means a greater chance that a tank was removed or abandoned without the current owners's knowing about it.

If there is currently an oil tank installed, has the tank been kept relatively full in spring and fall? The extra weight helps prevent tank shifting and related piping leaks, and will reduce water in the fuel (can cause loss of heat) from condensation. Again, delivery records can inform this answer, as can testing the tank for water.

Note: these tips are not an oil storage tank installation guide. Proper installation must be done by trained service technicians and must comply with local building codes.

In the author's view (DJF), oil tank testing services and professional environmental inspectors are expected to include both a visual screen of the property for clues such as these, and also a combination of other methods to detect buried oil tanks. Some of these include

  • Historical information about the site is collected.
  • Oil company records may be checked for indications of deliveries or of prior tank service or removal
  • Ground scanning radar may be employed to locate large buried metal objects
  • Common sense observation of details, such as the location and placement of oil tank fill and vent piping, if present, can indicate the probable size and type of tanks in some cases.
  • Building interior inspection for abandoned oil piping or fuel lines, or patch-marks on foundation walls where such lines may have been removed.
  • An examination of the history of the property's heating systems - what equipment has been present, removed, changed.

 

 

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OIL TANK HISTORY REVIEW at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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