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Photograph of  a sketch of a large underground oil storage tank Legal Issues & Reporting Requirements for Buried Oil Storage Tanks
Bulk Oil Storage Tanks

  • OIL TANK LEGAL ISSUES -CONTENTS: Reporting requirements for oil tanks based on capacity. Test tanks before purchasing a home. Remove or abandon buried tanks. Replace tanks with double-walled or above-ground units
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about legal issues concerning buried and large heating oil storage tanks
  • REFERENCES
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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.



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Buried Oil Storage Tanks (UST) Legal Issues

Oil tank floating up from the ground by a creek (C) Daniel Friedman - 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.

Reader objections to oil tank leak issues & costs:

(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!

Reply: research on the environmental hazards presented by oil storage tank leaks & spills

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

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