Curren Environmental Blog

How to remove an oil tank.

Posted by David C Sulock on Nov 5, 2018 10:14:32 AM

 

How to remove an oil tank.

The northeast United States has a long history of oil heat. Oil tanks were commonly used starting in the early 1900s until the 1980s The EPA was not formed until 1970, so oil tanks and environmental regulations did not grow up together.  Today the liability of oil tank leaks is well known and both buyers and sellers

The concern regarding an oil tank is any tank has a chance to leak. If a tank leaks, there can be a cleanup expense involved. This expense falls upon the owner of the property at the time of discovery. Try selling a house with an oil tank and learn that the buyers want a home not an oil tank leak. The fact is a new tank today has a 10-year warranty (yes there are tanks with longer warranties, but those are quite expensive), so nearly all tanks in use today have reached what would be considered a reasonable life expectancy. Couple that with the fact that if your tank is leaking, it most commonly happens along the very bottom of the tank where the most corrosion occurs, so you would never actually detect that the tank is leaking. Quite frankly, no tank owner is going to miss drips of oil from a tank.

 

Heating oil tank systems new jersey

 

So, you have an old tank, a house you want to sell and a dilemma, do you remove the tank like a proactive reasonable person would do, or do you stick your feet in the sand and sell the house as is? Well rest assured your buyer has read this web site, or their attorney, or realtor has and they know the issues with oil tanks. We find a sale has to fall through 3 times or the house has to be on the market for 6 months or more before the seller accepts the fact that an oil tank is not as appealing as walk in closets and an open floor plan, buyers will take a hard pass.

So now the tank owner is looking to have the tank removed. A little internet search or a reference from someone leads them to a company happy to remove the tank. Cheapest price, absolutely that is what they want. Does the removal company even discuss the possible outcomes of the tank leaking? No they don't, they don't want to scare you and quite frankly you don't want to be scared, you're a tank expert, you know your tank isn't leaking and hey oil comes from the ground and you're pretty good about recycling so you're a green person.

Let me point out some pitfalls about removing your oil tank.

The cheapest price includes the worst service and you will wind up paying more in the end, 90% of the time. The cheap person wants to find a leaking tank because that is where the big costs are. Read the tank contract, it will be brief, but it needs to include the following and most will not.  We know this as we get many phone calls from people complaining about the firm that removed their oil tank.

Soil Sampling

You think you do not want it, but the buyer wants to know if the tank leaked how you know 100% is via soil testing. Like cholesterol, you do not know the levels unless you test.

You should always include sample acquisition and analysis with a tank removal. Samples on average cost $120.00 each or $240.00 on most tank removal sites. This is cheaper to do when you are on site to remove the tank. If you have to go back to the site and drill to obtain soil samples expect it to cost thousands. Sampling is even more important when a tank sweep is performed and a tank is found on a site, meaning, a tank that was not in use and not known to exist.

Hole found in the tank

Let us agree that things are not made to last forever, things wear out, is it really a shock to remove an oil tank that is 20, 30, 40, 50 years old and find a hole in it. I mean is that out of the realm of possibility? If you were not informed of this possibility, be prepared to be taken advantage of, tank leaks, not all of them but some. To manage expectations the company that removes your tank should explain what will happen if your tank does or does not leak. To be clear if there are holes in the tank, the local construction office will flag the tank as leaking and have you report the leak to the state. The reason being a hole in a tank is reasonable cause to believe that the tank leaked. So now, you are tasked with proving it did not leak or does not need remediation. In the meantime, the tank removal company will be giving you a quote that is many times more expensive to remediate the leak.

 

2018-06-27 10.16.15

 

The tank had holes and you are told you must remediate.

If a tank leak is found you MUST test to see if levels are above or below standard.  If you do not test than it is going to be assumed you must remediate, prepare to open your checkbook.

If you have a tank leak and you test and oil levels are so high that you need to remediate then your next real step is to define the area requiring remediation, this is called delineation.

Delineation is meant to define the area of contamination (and verify that contamination exists). Smaller areas are faster and less expensive to define, larger areas take longer. Larger areas can extend across property boundaries and below structures, which can require overcoming access issues regarding sampling these areas. The first step which maybe the only step required is sampling immediately around the tank area.

 

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Tank Closure Report

Did you know that commercial tanks all require a report to be submitted to the state to document the work? Why, the state wants to know if the tank leaked. Therefore, every company is used to completing reports of tank removal work. Clearly, any tank raises questions with owners/purchasers of a property, so why wouldn't you want a report of removal? You do and you should have a report, when contract. These reports explain the work in laymans terms regarding the tank work and if there was a leak, it will also outline why you do or do not need remediation. Having a report documenting that a removed tank did not leak is an important document to have.

Bottom line, every tank needs a report documenting removal. Be it a leaking tank or a non leaker, if your contract makes no reference to any report,  I wouldn't sign it.

Curren has completed thousands of tanks, one month we completed closure on 129 tanks. That said, we do not remove every tank in the tri-state area, but we get calls from property owners who hired someone else to remove their tank and they feel like they are being treated unfairly. Meaning they were unprepared to find that the tank leaked. In practice, I don't expect a property owner who has never removed an oil tank and never will again to be all knowing about the tank removals and tank leaks, but I expect the company performing the work to know and to clearly explain the process and the scenarios you can encounter.

The follow exert is from a tank removal contact from a company I would have run away from. Give it a quick read:

  • Obtain necessary permit from municipality
  • Phone in utility mark out to NJ One Call
  • Excavate to expose tank
  • Remove overburden soil covering UST
  • Remove and dispose of concrete adjacent to UST.
  • Saw cut the UST to allow for hand cleaning
  • Properly clean the UST interior
  • Remove the UST, and dispose of at a properly facility

This scope assumes the tank is not leaking. Bottom line the scope they gave was not meant to really satisfy you if the tank leaked, which was clearly a possibility. They don't even include soil sampling or a report so if the tank doesn't leak you don't get a report saying so. If the tank did leak, no sampling is include, which is so wrong, you need to test as every state allows a permissible amount of oil to remain, like cholesterol there are good and bad levels.  How else do you know if you need to remediate?

We can only hope you are reading this before you get your tank removed. If so, call our office you will walk away a lot more informed and better prepared to manage this project. If you are calling after your tank was removed and it leaked, call us, we can discuss your options. Most leaking tanks will require the contamination to be delineated, which we do. We can define your problem, develop costs to remediate as well as data to you that you can solicit other quotes for remediation.

 

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Tags: NJDEP HOTS, oil tank, oil tank removal nj, oil tank removal

Is my residential heating oil tank regulated in New Jersey?

Posted by david sulock on Sep 25, 2018 8:43:32 AM

Is my residential heating oil tank regulated in New Jersey?

 

Heating oil tanks are unregulated by the NJDEP in New Jersey as they used to be called UHOTs (Unregulated heating oil tanks).   Work performed on abandoning an oil tank is governed by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Bulletin No.: 95-1B. Discharges or leaks from these tanks are regulated by the  Department of Environmental Protection’s Unregulated Heating Oil Tank (UHOT) Program.

 NJ oil tank removal

Let us not get ahead of ourselves.  First, to work on a heating oil tank in New Jersey you must be licensed by the NJDEP. The NJDEP certifies individuals and firms that perform services on unregulated heating oil tanks.  To be technical, N.J.A.C. 7:14B defines unregulated heating oil tanks as, “any one or combination of tanks, including appurtenant pipes, lines, fixtures, and other related equipment, used to contain an accumulation of heating oil for on-site consumption in a residential building, or those tanks with a capacity of 2,000 gallons or less used to store heating oil for on-site consumption in a nonresidential building.”

To say it in English and following a federal definition, an underground storage tank is defined as a tank the volume of which, including the volume of the appurtenant pipes, lines, fixtures and other related equipment, is 10 percent or more below the ground.

It is generally recommended that if you own out-of-service underground heating oil tank, it is a good practice to remove the tank.   Takes removed from service such as during gas conversions, rarely ever get placed back into service.   Tanks older than 20 to 30 years are also recommended to be removed as nothing lasts forever. Although tank abandonment is allowed, there has been an increase in previously abandoned tanks being removed. These tank removals are driven by insurance and mortgage companies that do not want the liability associated with underground heating oil tanks, as these tanks can leak and remediation can be thousands of dollars.   

 Tank previously abandoned in place with sand

New Jersey has construction codes and The Uniform Construction Code (UCC) covers oil tanks, but this code is not a retrofit code, and therefore, it does not deal with tanks that have been abandoned for extended periods of time. The UCC applies when a tank is taken out of service as part of a construction project or when the tank has become unsafe. If a project results in an underground tank being out of service for a period of one year, (such as an oil to gas conversion), as per Section 5704.2.13.1.3 of the International Fire Code (IFC), the tank must be removed from the ground in accordance with Section 5704.2.14 of the IFC or abandoned in place in accordance with Section 5704.2.13.1.4 of the IFC. If an aboveground tank is out of service for a period of one year, as per Section 5704.13.2.3 of the IFC, the tank shall be removed in accordance with Section 5704.2.14 of the code.

An oil to gas conversion is an example where a construction activity can trigger the need to address the oil tank.  In this case, the local code officials must ensure that the tank is properly removed or abandoned in connection with the conversion.*

 oil to gas conversion

* The only exception to this would be where the owner can demonstrate a legitimate continued use of the tank.

 

The removal or abandonment of a tank requires an application for and the issuance of a demolition permit regardless of whether it is in connection with other related work. In short, if you are removing or abandoning an oil tank you need a permit.

 

Oil tank removal and abandonment inspections are the responsibility of the of the fire sub-code official as per the IFC, Section 5704.2.13, fuel oil storage systems, as referenced by the International Mechanical Code (Section 1301.5) and the International Residential Code (Section M2201.7). Per N.J.A.C. 5:23-3.4.

 

Proper Abandonment Procedures are detailed in the International Fire Code, Section 5704.2.13.1.4, the American Petroleum Institute (API) Bulletin 1604, and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 30 Annex C relating to the abandonment of underground storage tanks. These documents, which detail procedures for tank abandonment are followed by New Jersey’s applicable regulation as listed in N.J.A.C. 5:23-3.6.

 

Tank Leak Assessment

The construction regulations are not clear regarding who, what, when or how the assessment of a tank for leaks is performed as it is generally not considered a construction activity.  The construction regulations do define that WHEN contamination is found it is to be reported to the NJDEP hotline at 877-927-6337 (877-WARN-DEP).  This is the bear trap owners of tanks face when a tank is removed.  NJDEP regulations chapter 26F HEATING OIL TANK SYSTEM REMEDIATION RULES  Statutory Authority N.J.S.A. 13:1D-9, 58:10-23.11 et seq., 58:10A-1 et seq., 58:10A-21 et seq., 58:10A-37.1 et seq., 58:10B-1 et seq., and 58:10C-1 et seq.  Date last amended August 6, 2018, state that:

 

"Upon discovery of a discharge, the owner shall immediately notify the Department by calling the Department Hotline at 1-877-WARNDEP (1-877-927-6337)."

Therefore, under the NJDEP requirements the owner upon discovering a tank leak must notify the NJDEP spill hotline.

residential oil tank leak

 

Construction Permit Approval

 

The most misunderstood part of the tank closure process is the sign off from the local municipality.  As per the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Bulletin No.: 95-1B after tank has been removed and properly disposed of, and the excavation is filled with certified clean material, a certificate of approval can be issued by the local construction office and the permit can be closed out.    So once you follow the construction procedures the township can close the permit, if the tank leaked or not.  Again once, you remove and backfill the tank, the municipality is done with their job. Any remediation activity, including the removal of contaminated soil, will then proceed through the Department of Environmental Protection’s Unregulated Heating Oil Tank (UHOT) Program.

Does all this sound confusing?  It should not but it does and the layperson should not be expected to know these procedures or regulations but they are subject to them.

If you want clear-cut answers, call Curren we have been performing tank closures for over 20 years.   Thousands of completed tank projects have made us de facto experts on tanks.

 

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Tags: oil tank, oil tank removal nj, oil tank removal, oil tank removal new jersey, NJ HOTS

7 Things I wish I knew before I removed my oil tank.

Posted by david sulock on Jul 25, 2018 9:11:47 AM

 A construction permit is required and it can take up to 20 business days to get the permit, which is a month.

 I thought that my out of use tank could remain where it was buried.  Nope, the buyer of my house needed a mortgage and to get the mortgage to buy my house, the tank had to be removed. Their attorney also advised that it be removed.   Yep found this out 9 days before settlement.  Did not know the tank removal permit took weeks to get.   Settlement eventually happened but it was 4 weeks later.

 

home tank removal

 

A tank removal report is important.

Had my tank removed no leaks.  Listed house for sale, buyer wanted proof that the tank did not leak.  I had a copy of the contract for the removal and I had a paid tank removal invoice, that was not enough,. The company I hired to remove the oil tank did not give me a report.  Stupid me the contract for removal did not include a report.   I had to pay another company to dig up the old tank grave, test the soils, and give me a report that the tank did not leak.  Apparently, buyers want 100% confirmation that the tank did not leak.  I mean it makes sense you want a report of the tank removal if you are buying a house, but why didn’t the tank removal company tell me that or give me one? 

Tank removal soil sampling is really important.

I was told I did not have to soil test when the tank is removed.  Apparently, testing is not required by law.  Well I removed the tank and it leaked and the immediate diagnosis was $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 to remediate the leak.  When I mean immediate, I mean I had an estimate to clean up the tank leak 2 days after the tank was removed.   I ultimately fired the tank removal company and hired another company.  The new company told me that you could not conclude 100% if remediation is necessary without soil testing.   Bottom line I got the soil tested, yes there was oil; no, it was not enough oil to demand remediation.  Saved the $10,000.00.  Couldn’t the company tell me that testing while not required is worth it if the tanks appears to have leaked.

Not all oil leaks mean you have to remediate.

As I learned, a hole in a tank only means that the company that removed the tank is going to give me an expensive quote to clean up the oil.  Apparently there are legal amounts of oil that can remain in the ground, kind of like good and bad cholesterol, but you would never know unless you test.

 

Holes in oil tank, but oil in bottom of tank

How excited the tank removal company crew would become after they removed my tank and found out it was leaking.

Got my oil tank removed, took the day off from work. The whole thing was very stressful as I bought the house with a sand filed tank and now 10 years later I am selling the house and the buyers want the tank removed.   When the tank was removed and I saw holes in the tank, my heart sank.  The mood of the tank workers was elevated when they saw the holes in the tank   You would think the Philadelphia Eagles won a 2nd super bowl.   I feel like they were leading me down a path to spend money I didn’t plan for or have.   Look I understand tank leaks but I was never told about what happens when a tank leaks.  It was upsetting that they were happy for by problems.

Getting something in writing is really important.

I hired a tank company to do my tank removal.  They talked a good game and had a very good price.   They had a 2-page proposal, it was brief and somewhat vague now that I think about it.  Well when I found out my tank leaked soil testing which I thought was done or would be done (we did speak about it) was not done.  They actually took a soil sample but it was not for determining if the oil level in the ground was legal it for the disposal of the soil.  I was presumed guilty.    I was more than a little miffed; I didn’t want to pay the bill until I got a report of removal.  I didn’t get that either.  I complained to an attorney who reviewed my 2-page quote.  I was told if it is not in the contract the company doesn’t have to do it.  So, I got no testing and no report, but I was told I would if in the small chance my oil tank leaked.   It was a case of he said she said, the attorney agreed it was deceptive but not worth the money to go after legally.

The cheapest price is not the best.

I figured a tank is a tank is a tank, so a tank removal is a tank removal.  I picked the least expensive company.  I thought I compared apples to apples and was picking the shiniest apple.  Well my tank leaked and I was up charged more than 5 times what the cost to remove the tank was.    What I learned from one of the tank company workers who needed to use my bathroom was the company doesn’t make money removing oil tanks.  The cleanup is much more profitable and their goal is to get as many tank removal projects  as possible, which increases their odds of finding a leaking tank.   They are supposed to call the office once they know a tank leaked, I guess to toast to their good fortune but not mine.

These seven snippets of experiences all came from clients of Curren who had their tank removed by another company.

Do something once and you are a novice.

Do something twice, well you are not a pro but you know more than you did the first time.

Bottom line, we have been performing tank projects for over 20 years.  Thousands of tanks tested, removed, and remediated.   Referrals are our largest source of work and we don’t advertise, no ads on the internet promoting Curren Environmental.     We do get many calls from people who after reading our web site and speaking to us wished they called us first for their tank removal.

If you have a tank and you want solid advice and your work professionally done, call our office.  We provide free consultation and estimates.  We have no sales people and 20 years of satisfied clients.  You can be the next one.

Monday to Friday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm   

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Tags: oil tank removal pa, oil tank, tank leak, oil tank removal nj, oil tank removal, oil tank removal new jersey, tank removal

How long does an Oil Tank Last?

Posted by David C Sulock on Mar 6, 2018 4:01:00 AM

What is the life expectancy of an oil tank?

How long does an oil tank last?  When do you replace an oil tank.  These are popular oil tank questions.  All things have a finite life expectancy. Both aboveground storage tanks (ASTs) and underground storage tanks (USTs) have a usable life. The problem is your tank can fail (holes appear) and you may never notice.  An industry average for the life span of an oil tank is 20 years, some tanks last longer and some shorter.  This time frame is greatly dependent on the type of oil tank, construction of the tank (meaning thicker walled tanks generally can last longer). environment the tank is in (indoor - outdoor),  and the contents of the tank.  Harsher environments tend to shorten the lifespan of pretty much anything, including steel tanks. 

 
my oil tank leaked pic2.jpg

 

When I ask people how long they think a tank is supposed to last I typically get silence or "I don’t know".   Then, I tell them thank you for not saying "Tanks last FOREVER".   A simple rule of replacement is if the roof has been replaced, so should the tank.    This is for all the people who are using a tank TODAY and if your house was built between 1950 and 1995, your tank is beyond any reasonable expectation of usable life and should be replaced.  No there is not a likely possibility that the original tank from the day your house was constructed has been replaced.  The saying 'if it isn’t broken don’t fix it' is unfortunately followed when it comes to oil tanks.   Simply put, if people replaced tanks within a reasonable amount of time, you wouldn’t have tank leaks and expensive environmental cleanups.

How do oil tanks leak?  Many oil tanks rust through from the inside out.  This most often occurs when the oil is not present, meaning upper portion of the tank where the tank is empty and the oil is not present to lubricate the steel.  Tanks can also leak due to the use of low sulfur fuel.  Heating oil tanks that have low sulfur fuel and water can allow microbial growth to occur.  Secretions from these microbes can produce acids that can corrode a steel tank.

Click Here to Learn about Testing Oil Tanks for Leaks

Aside from corrosion inside the tank, an oil tank can deteriorate from the outside due to environmental conditions.   Rust never sleeps and for corrosion to occur you need metal, oxygen and moisture.   How fast a given metal rusts is based on the environment the metal is exposed too. 

 

Holes in Underground Oil Tank

 

Aboveground oil tanks may look fine from a cursory exterior view but in fact, could heavy corroded on the inside and be ready to fail. 

Underground oil tanks are thicker than comparable aboveground tanks due to a more corrosive environment.  In short, an indoor rated AST is thinner than an outdoor rated AST, which is thinner than a buried UST.  Curren has found that there is a wide variation in indoor aboveground and outdoor aboveground oil tank life spans due to the considerable variation in both the quality and thickness of steel (older tanks seem to have been a heavier gauge steel), which helps prolong the life of the tank.

 

Tank Questions? Click Here

We have seen indoor oil tanks in good condition that are 60 years old or older, and we have found failures in newer oil storage tanks that may have been made of thinner or cheaper steel and that did not last as long as the original ones.  The tanks made immediately following WWII are of higher quality, saying things are not made as good as they used to be is a very true statement when it comes to oil tanks.

Rather than guess a tanks oil tank condition, we suggest that if your home has an older aboveground oil storage tank, twenty years old or older, you should replace the tank.  Keep in mind many brand new oil tanks have a 1 year warranty.

What Can Cause an Oil Tank To Leak?

  • Exposure of the oil storage tank to wide temperature swings, especially in cold and humid climates can increase in-tank condensation leading to corrosion
  • Exposure of the tank fill or vent pipes to rain, especially to roof runoff for tanks mounted under the eaves of a home and especially if the oil fill cap is not securely tightened after filling with oil.  
  • External oil tank rust due to exposure to the weather. Many small tanks, 275 to 300 gallon tanks were used for unintended uses.  Meaning many of these size tanks, were never rated for outdoor use, but have been used for outdoor use and some even buried.   You can tell what use a tank is rated for by reading the UL label that is affixed to the top of the tank.  Manufacturers of newer oil storage tanks in this size range often have removed this "indoor use only" wording from the UL label.
  • Improper oil tank installation  of improper oil tank type.  Meaning the tank was not designed for the current use.  We have found indoor oil tanks that were moved outside and placed onto the underground in the soil surface below a deck, and then partially to half buried. What is this tank, an underground tank or an aboveground tank?  (The government definition of a UST is one where 10% or more of the tank is buried below ground.) These tanks were not rated for outdoor use at all and are at extra risk of leakage due to placement of the tank body directly in contact with the soil.
  • Improper oil storage tank supports, such as failure to keep the outdoor tank off of the ground, to install it at the proper pitch and direction of pitch, and to install it on level surface, unsecured legs of the tank can lead to the tank tipping over, ripping open an oil line, and obvious discharge of oil from the tank.   This is more common with out-of-service tanks.

Want information on tank removal? Clock here Oil Tank Removal

Tags: oil tank, tank leak, OIl Tank Sweeps, tank removal grants, oil tank removal nj, oil tank removal new jersey