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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.
Oil Tank Site History Reivew can help determine if buried oil tanks are or have been at a property
Buried 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
How old is the present oil tank? Tanks approaching 15 to 20 years old have a much greater risk of
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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 Fuel Storage] Tank Corrosion Study, U.S. EPA report on gasoline and oil tank corrosion, James H. Pim, P.E., John M. Searing, Suffolk County DOHS, 15 Horseblock Place, Farmingville Long Island, NY 11728, November 1988, for the Office of Underground Storage Tanks, U.S. EPA. ATTN: David O'Brien. The report presents a study of 500 underground storage tanks spanning 24 February 1987 and September 1 1988 and summarizes earlier reports on this same study. Tank sizes ranged from 175 gallons to 50,000 gallons, and oil tank ages ranged from two years to 70 years old. All 500 oil storage tanks were constructed of welded steel, and 12 other tanks that were other than plain steel were also examined. Summary [with minor edits for clarity by DJF]
 Thanks to Arlene Puentes for for technical edits on oil tank leak advice- 12/2005. Arlene Puentes is a licensed home inspector, educator, and building failures researcher in Kingston, NY.
 "A Case Study of a Large Scale Precision [oil or fuel] Tank Testing Program", Diane H. Heck, Tetra Tech Richardson, Newark, Delaware, web search 4/27/12, original source: http://info.ngwa.org/GWOL/pdf/870143411.PDF, copy on file as /heating/OIl Tanks UST/Tank_Test_Heck_870143411.pdf
 Fuel Oil and Oil Heat Magazine, August 1985 p.18. Fuel Oil & Oil Heating Magazine, 3621 Hill Rd., Parsippany, NJ 07054, 973-331-9545
 Standards of the National Board of Fire Underwriters, as referenced by "Domestic and Commercial Oil Burners,", Charles H. Burkhardt, 1961, 3rd Ed., McGraw Hill Book Company, p. 172
 NFPA - the National Fire Protection Association can be found online at www.nfpa.org
 "The Interim Prohibition Guidance for Design and Installation of Underground Oil Storage Tanks", U.S. EPA, EPA/530-SW-85203, Office of Underground Storage Tanks, Washington D.C.
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 US EPA "How do you Properly Close a UST?" is summarized at epa.gov/OUST/fsprevnt.htm These details for temporary and permanent closing of underground oil storage tanks are provided by the US EPA as well.
 "How do you choose the right tank testing method?", Cynthia Johnson, Fuel Oil & Oil Heat Magazine, November 1995
 National Association of Oil Heat Service Managers, PO Box 380, Elmwood Park, NJ 07407
 "Homeowners Guide to Fuel Storage," Agway Energy Products, Verbank, NY, November 1990
 "Causes of Underground Corrosion", Harco Corporation, Paper HC-36, Median OH
ABOVE GROUND OIL TANK (AST) GUIDE - "Visual Inspection of Above Ground Residential Heating Oil Storage Tanks - ASTs" Advanced Home Inspection Methodology - Developing your X-Ray Vision
A Promotion Theory for Forensic Observation of Residential Construction. Discussion of methods to accumulate clues to enable
the detection of hard-to-find defects on buildings or other complex systems.
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
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