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This article discusses the legal issues associated with buried oil storage tanks - underground tank or UST laws.
The proceedings of this oil tank inspection educational meeting addresses legal issues associated with buried oil tanks, also referred to as underground storage tanks or USTs.
- Kimberlea Shaw Rea, of Bleakley, Platt, and Schmidt. The information was first presented at the New York Metro ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors) Chapter Education Session June 1994, reported by Daniel Friedman, and updated through January 2014.
Over the past few years, the problems associated with buried oil tanks have received increased attention. A leaking tank can contaminate soil, ground water, and drinking water supplies.
At the June meeting New York Metro ASHI meeting, attorney Kimberlea Shaw Rea, of Bleakley, Platt, and Schmidt, discussed some legal issues of petroleum bulk storage tanks. The liability associated with leaking residential or commercial tanks can be enormous. Ms. Rea indicated that some leaking tanks have affected dozens of families.
Properties with total storage of 1,100 gallons or more now require registration with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). Interestingly, condominiums with several small tanks installed on the same property would probably meet this cumulative 1,100 gallon limit.
Properties with 1,100 gallons or more of cumulative storage must meet certain DEC requirements which typically include tank tightness testing every five years. New tanks (1,100 gallons or more) must meet DEC requirements for corrosion prevention, spill prevention, and leak detection.
Properties with a cumulative storage capacity of less than 1,100 gallons typically do not fall under DEC regulations unless there is a leak. If oil or petroleum storage leakage is observed, the leak must be reported to the DEC within two hours of the observation. The DEC spill hot line number is 800-457-7362. Ms. Rea indicated that it is unlawful to fail to report a leak. © 2010 Daniel Friedman copyright trap.
Before purchasing a home, Ms. Rea strongly recommended that buried tanks be tested. Once a property is purchased, the liability for a leaking tank becomes the responsibility of the new owner. Testing for a residential tank typically costs about $500.
Ideally, buried tanks should be removed or properly abandoned in place. They should be replaced with a double-walled or above-ground tank. Periodic tank testing for a small, buried residential tank is typically less cost effective than tank relocation.
Although leak testing of oil tanks is beyond the scope of a professional ASHI home inspection, NY Metro ASHI conducts monthly educational seminars on various issues of concern to home owners and inspectors.
If you are buying a home and would like more information about home inspections, you can contact your local home inspector, or an oil-tank testing company.
ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors, is the national certifying association for professional home inspectors. ASHI is a not-for profit association dedicated to home inspector education and professionalism. The local chapter, NY Metro ASHI, Inc., meets monthly for an educational meeting, and sponsors periodic inspection seminars.
(May 25, 2014) Rick Clarke said:
Dan, first no I do not have a business related to this industry other than to say that many construction businesses are being created to deal with this situation. However, the level of expertise in this area as I found on line has been limited to fear mongering. My main issue is that those who made the decisions to direct people to bury a steel tank have all conveniently been able to walk away from VERY bad decisions. Of course then these bad decisions are then passed on to the consumer, -.AGAIN. In Canada, the government mandated to change exterior construction so much that it failed to recognize the importance of actually listening to many concerns that were brought up about those changes in Building Codes. And guess what? It backfired. And who got left holding the bag? Yes -the end users. US. And if that wasn't enough they then had the gall to collect GST tax on repairs done to repair the damages on such a bad decision.
This whole oil tank issue goes beyond stupidity for RESIDENTIAL concerns when tanks have been emptied and filled and have no more concern than rotting in the ground.
So now, I can't wait for all the issues pertaining to the HAZARDOUS MATERIALS WASTE SITES, becoming the next major problems. JUST SAYIN!
Thanks for the viewpoint, Rick.
I agree that oil tank cleanup costs can be quite high.
I don't agree that the solution is to never bury an oil tank. The tank location choice depends on building and site requirements. There are also leak resistant products that can and should be used in many situations as well as tank protection systems.
I very much agree that on many environmental topics there are some dismaying scare tactics one can encounter by those who have a financial interest to bear. Search InspectApedia for
EnviroScare to see a discussion of that topic.
I don't agree that there are no true environmental hazards associated with oil spills.
Here are a few example citations of scholarly research on the topic
Continue reading at OIL TANK REGULATIONS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
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can you coney ownership of a home with leaking oil tank - Joey 10/5/2012
I was sold a property with a underground tank a few years ago and was not informed of this issue. Can I turn the home back over to the company I purchased it from? - Donnie Townsend 3/13/2013
We just had an inspection for the home that we want to buy. There is reason to believe that there may still br an undergrounf oil tank that is no longer in use. Our real estste agent is trying to find out. My question is-is it legak to sell a house with an old underground oil tank in Covenrry Cy? - Carolione 3/31/2013
Can, perhaps if there is no nor attorney or bank monitoring the sale, but if you are the seller, you shouldn't do so as you are asking for a lawsuit when the buyer finds out the cost to cure the problem.
Unfortunately in real estate, the responsibility is on the BUYER to perform all due-diligence inspections and tests prior to the purchase of a property. Unless you can show that you relied on fraudulent information provided by the seller AND that it was reasonable for you to have relied on that information, I'm doubtful that you will get anywhere with this problem - but the proper approach is for you to consult an attorney who is familiar with real estate as well as environmental law.
In most states there are laws requiring a seller to disclose substantive defects known to the seller. However in most states it is also possible for a seller to simply sign a document saying in effect "I don't know anything and I am not disclosing anything" for which the seller also gives the buyer a (usually modest) allowance. In effect the seller pays a few hundred dollars to be excused from disclosing anything.
That's why you hire an expert attorney, one who is working for you, when buying a property.
Let us know what your attorney says - it may help other readers.
I don't have specific information about your county (you don't even mention the nearest city or state, so ...) that's a question for your attorney.
But my OPINION is that I'd be very very surprised if it were "illegal" to sell a property with an abandoned oil storage tank.
More useful might be these points:
Be sure to read these articles
More on laws about oil tanks is at OIL TANK CODES & STANDARDS
(May 24, 2014) Rick Clarke said:
So I have not yet found one piece of information about what boogie man lives below with a buried oil tank. Other than it being an Environmental issue, not one piece tells us just what the risks are. What PROOF is there that this is so dangerous? And how is it that the governments, and building codes of the day have conveniently been able to walk away from ANY responsibility to homeowners. It would seem that when municipalities directed contractors to bury the oil tanks NOBODY brought up any concerns? I find this very hard to believe.
Again and again it would seem that the little guy gets stuck with paying for the dumb decisions being made by people in government. Is a tank going to blow up? Is it going to cause a sink hole? doesn't oil come from the ground to start with? It seems that a lot of people are making money off this and a lot of people are being left holding the bag losing all their money in the process. PLEASE SHOW ME THE PROOF. firstname.lastname@example.org
It has been well established that heating oil or fuel oil leaks contaminate the environment. Put in simple terms for you that means you may be drinking toxic heavy metals and organics that are known carcinogens, possibly also endocrine disrupters.
One wonders if you have a business or financial interest here?
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