Photograph of sketch of parts of a buried oil tank How to Inspect the Grounds of a Property to Find Evidence of Buried Oil Tanks
     


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How to inspect property grounds for signs of a buried or abandoned oil tank.

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. This is a photo guide to finding buried oil storage tanks by visual inspection of the grounds around a home.

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 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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Inspect the Property where an Oil Tank Might Have Been Installed

How to Inspect the Grounds of Properties Where There are Known or Suspected Abandoned or Removed Oil Storage Tanks

Oil tank floated up out of the groundHave all abandoned tank fill pipes been completely removed from the building to prevent mistaken delivery and spill into the building? Have old indoor tanks been removed or marked clearly as "Abandoned, DO NOT FILL" ?

At this property in Rhinebeck, NY we had spotted oil filler and vent pipes inside the dense thicket along the creek.

A decade later during a period of local flooding the tank to which the oil pipes had been connected floated up out of the ground as shown in this photo. The owner no longer had an easy option of "hiding" the abandoned oil tank. Like a spring corpse it had floated to the surface.

If an outdoor buried oil tank has been properly abandoned at a property, the tank should have been excavated at its top, opened, emptied, cleaned, inspected for evidence of leaks, and then filled with an approved material (perhaps sand or a special foam) both to prevent re-use of the tank and to prevent a possibly dangerous future collapse of the old tank.

Old heating oil tank being removed (C) Daniel FriedmanThis procedure should have been performed by a qualified tank abandonment company, and documentation should be provided showing who did the work, when it was done, what inspections or tests were performed to assure that there was no evidence of oil tank leakage into the surrounding soil, and how the tank was filled-in.

If this documentation is not available for a property being purchased then the minimum prudent step would be to order a site inspection and soil testing for evidence of leakage. Surface soil tests are not as important, in our opinion, as soil borings taken from the approximate depth of the bottom of the tank since that's where more problematic leakage would have occurred.

If a property seller will not permit site inspection and testing for oil leakage we would be concerned that the owner knows or suspects that a costly contamination issue is present.

One of our clients was told that she would not be permitted to perform any tests or inspections for oil tank leakage prior to purchase of the property - a sufficiently ominous warning that she did not complete the purchase. We learned that a significant oil spill had occurred and that the owner had herself had removed the tank fill and vent piping, leaving a costly problem in-ground for the next owner.

 

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Or see BURIED OIL TANK, SIGNS OF

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