How to Find & Report Evidence of a Buried Oil Storage Tank
BURIED OIL TANK REPORTS - CONTENTS: How to report clues suggesting that a UST or underground storage tank is or was installed at a property. Example oil tank inspection report language for Buried Oil Tanks. Guidelines for home inspectors for reporting on oil storage tanks
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This document describes and provides home inspection report language for reporting evidence of buried heating oil tanks.
Beyond the costly problem of leaky heating oil tanks, this series of articles lists other important safety or
oil-fired equipment operational defects in home and light commercial heating oil storage and piping systems - see the links listed at the "More Reading" links at the bottom of this article .
This sample home inspection report language may assist home owners or home buyers in understanding
risks associated with both buried and above ground oil or other fuel storage tanks at their property.
The oil tank and oil piping inspection report language explains the need for action and indicates where
more information can be obtained.
Contact us to suggest text changes and additions and, if you wish, to receive online listing and credit for that contribution.
How to Report the Presence or Suspected Presence of a BURIED OIL Storage TANK - Found or Suspected at a Property
Sample oil tank inspection report for buried oil tanks: A buried oil tank is installed and could not be inspected.
We saw the following evidence that a buried oil storage tank is or was in use at this property:
Evidence that an underground storage tank has been used at a property is clearly indicated where abandoned oil lines are found in a foundation wall such as in the photograph at left.
The presence of these abandoned copper pipes does not tell us whether or not the underground storage tank has been tested, abandoned in place, or removed.
The oil filler pipe found on the property shown at the top of this page is firm evidence that the underground oil storage tank is still in place - it would be improbable that a buried oil would or even could be removed while leaving its filler pipe in place. In fact home buyers need to be alert for the opposite possibility - that a buried tank remains in place, without proper abandonment, but someone has simply unscrewed and removed the oil tank fill and vent piping that previously were visible above ground.
Before completing purchase of a property that has or had a buried oil tank you need to have either
had the tank removed, abandoned in place, or tested. At end of the day, you need reliable documentation that
shows that either there has been no leakage and a proper tank abandonment has been performed, or if there was
leakage, that a proper cleanup has been performed. If the oil storage tank is a newer buried model (perhaps
a fiberglass or multi-walled oil storage tank) and if the oil tank is in good condition
it may not need to be abandoned.
But if older oil storage tanks were used, were removed, or remain abandoned
at the property you still need to satisfy the requirements of this paragraph. The discussion which follows explains the risks and
gives detailed advice about what to do about buried or above ground oil tanks and tank leaks.
Also see text and oil tank defect photographs at Visual Inspection of Oil Storage Tanks.
NOTICE: while example report language is provided here, reproduction of this or any of our web pages or their contents online at other websites
or in printed documents for sale is prohibited. Readers are welcome to use the text directly in home inspection reports, with citation of the website source.
Advice regarding buried oil tanks follows
Before buying a property test for leaks at buried oil tanks: where there is evidence or suspicion that a buried oil storage tank is or may have been installed, BURIED OIL TANKs should be tested for leaks since costly environmental cleanup can be required if
the tank has leaked into surrounding soil. Perform this test before purchase of the property.
See OIL TANK LEAK TEST METHODS for oil tank leak test options. Also see OIL TANK LIFE.
Test in-use oil tanks for water: It is also diagnostic to test the amount of water present in tank bottom; and water should be pumped out.
Water mixes with sulphur in the fuel, forms sulfuric acid, and corrodes through the tank.
While we've found them lasting longer, a common life expectancy of buried tanks is 10-15 years.
Ask your service person about using a fuel additive such as 4-in-1-Hot™ to help remove water.
See TEST OIL TANKS FOR WATER for simple oil tank test procedures for water - steps that can be taken by your oil heat service technician.
Oil tank registration in some states: ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES CONCERNING BURIED OIL TANKS: the NY Department of Environmental Conservation has a program registering
buried oil tanks at any site storing more than 1100 gallons of heating oil. See OIL TANK REGULATIONS.
Oil Tank Failure Rates: Oil storage tanks usually fail from rust perforation due to combination of water
inside the tank with sulphur in the fuel oil. External rust, unless very heavy, isn't highly correlated
with internal rust.
A new tank can involve significant expense. There are also proper methods of "abandoning" old unused
buried tanks without removing them if the tanks have not leaked. Consult your heating company or local
DEC officials if you have questions regarding this topic. See OIL TANK FAILURE CAUSES and OIL TANK FAILURE RATES for details.
OIL TANK LEAK FAILURE DATA: In New England for a two year period [1984-5] among customers who had buried
tanks (16% of total customers) surveyors found an average of 1.7 tank leaks per thousand customers.
They also found 2.5 fuel line leaks per 1000 customers.
Source: Fuel Oil and Oil Heat magazine, August 1985 p.18.
Loss of Heat due to Loss of Prime on Single Line Oil Tanks: SINGLE OIL FUEL LINE on a BURIED OIL TANK - Single oil line on buried oil tank risks lost prime, no heat
A single oil line was found coming from tank to oil burner.
Recommended practice is use of two pipes, for several reasons: avoiding loss of
prime, providing alternate pipe if supply pipe clogs, and reducing the lift
load on the pump.
Note: some experts recommend that the fire-safety valve for these systems be
installed ONLY on the supply line, with only a simple check valve on the
return line. This procedure reduces the risk of burst gasket at the oil pump
and spray of heating oil into an existing fire should a valve on the return
line close before the valve on the supply line during a fire.
This article has focused on the prime risks associated with buried oil tanks that may have caused or be soon to cause a costly leak problem. Other types of oil storage and oil piping system inspection, defects, and reports, need to be addressed - see the articles named in the links below.
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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
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