Curren Environmental Blog

Due Diligence & Executors of Homes with Oil Tanks

Posted by David C Sulock on Aug 31, 2016 2:30:54 PM

A gentleman contacted Curren Environmental regarding a house of his deceased in-laws.  His wife is the executor of the estate and lives local to the property.  Her parents who recently passed away, purchased their home only 2 years ago, moving from their previous home where they lived for over 50 years. Now, her parents’ home needs to be sold.  With all estates, you have the executor who is burdened with managing all the affairs, payment of bills and disbursement of assets with typically the home being the largest and most difficult assist to deal with.  Now, you also have the relatives and typically the beneficiaries of the estate that don’t do much but complain about how slow the executor is in disbursing the monies.  The heirs or as some people say THEIRS, want their share pronto (mourning is over) and they are impatient and do not understand what the delay is when disbursing the monies Mom and Dad left for them.  This is an extremely common scenario particularly when the average time it takes to settle an estate is one year.

This photos shows a more serios tank leak where the oil leaked deeper into the water table.  The seller would not allow the buyer to do any testing before purchase.

leaking oil tank cost

Being an executor of an estate is a difficult, thankless job as I just tried to explain.  Being the executor of an estate with an oil tank is an even bigger headache.  In our scenario the last asset to manage is the home sale and failure comes quick.  The home we are discussing was as I stated just purchased 2 years ago and is in good shape as the parents had a home inspection and prior owners addressed the short laundry list of items the home inspector found, so the sale by all the heirs accounts should be fast and smooth, right?   Yes and no, the house found a buyer that loved the house, neighborhood and price.  House was being sold as is and the buyers were ok with that.  Problem was the house was of the era when oil heat was likely used (home is on natural gas) and the buyers wanted a tank scan.  The Executor didn’t even know what a tank scan was and was informed by their attorney that if a tank was found, they would have to disclose it to future buyers in the event the deal went south. 

The heirs to the estate (brother & sister) lived in Florida, where oil tank problems are like unicorns and were completely baffled as to why this type of inspection would be necessary.   Now the internet is a vast trove of information where you can learn then become quite confused.  The executor googled Oil Tank Leak New Jersey and saw some alarming (scary) web pages, so they denied the prospective home buyers the rights to perform a tank scan.  (buyers were just out of their inspection period, so it was within the rights of the owner to deny the inspection).  So the deal died and the executor and heirs were anxious for the next buyer. 

The estate found another buyer and in the contract removed the right to do any tank sweeps and provided a statement that they were unaware of any oil tanks.  Again this buyer fell through, upon the advice of their realtor and attorney who both knew the risk of an oil tank (expensive to cleanup oil tank leaks and whoever owns the property owns the problem) and they canceled their offer to purchase.  Now the house sat, realtors talk as do neighbors, word on the street the property had an oil tank problem that the owners would not address.  You see realtors talk about what deals are happening and why deals fall apart, neighbors also are aware when a house gets a for sale sign, an under contract sign and then gets a for sale sign again

In this situation the husband of the executor contacted our office and relayed the story you were just told.  He wanted to know if he could inspect the dwelling for an oil tank so that he would know if there was an oil tank.  He didn’t want a report of a tank scan, he just wanted to know one way or another so they could settle this issue.  (the brother in Florida was getting real impatient and couldn’t understand the holdup)  What was Curren Environmental’s advice?

  1. It was ill-advised to deny the buyer the option of performing a tank scan, it made the owner look like they were hiding something. We asked how would you feel if you were denied an inspection for a property you were buying?
  2. Even though the sale was As Is, oil tanks don’t fall into As Is sales as you can’t walk a site and determine the expense involved with cleaning up an oil tank, that can cost thousands of dollars to just diagnosis the problem. It is far easier to get contractors to walk a property and provide rough budgets for roof repair, bathroom remodel, kitchen updating, tank issues cannot be evaluated so easily - unless you have X-ray vision.  Bottom line, the tank scan should have been performed.
  3. The question to our office regarding what indications would indicate the presence of an oil tank was a red flag, it typically means that the person wants to hide this evidence. WE indicated that they should stop going in the direction of looking for evidence of a tank, you see we were already in agreement that the age of the home (Pre 1985) was a sign that the house may have had oil heat.  In fact this house was built in 1920, and no doubt had coal heat, which was converted to oil heat after WWII and then ultimately natural gas.
  4. If the sellers stayed on the course they were on (denying an oil tank sweep), they may find a buyer, that may buy the house and an oil tank may be found in the future (possible during the next transaction or by a home improvement, or neighbor talking about how the neighborhood had oil heat and their house has a buried oil tank). Now at this point where an owner finds an oil tank, old owners typically get sued.  The problems with estates and oil tanks are by this time, the estate is dissolved and monies are disbursed, so the parties getting sued are the heirs to the estate.
  5. The best course of action is to allow the oil tank inspection, if no tank is found no harm no foul. If a tank is found, be aware of what many tank removal companies will not tell you,  (1) not all tanks leak, (2) not all tanks that leak require remediation and (3)  oil tank that leaks that are so costly and detailed in the scary Google search of Oil Tank Leaks, are rare, but that is what people see when they research oil tanks.
  6. Better to perform a tank scan, if an oil tank is found, remove the oil tank.  This is preferable to hiding any tank issue and than be sued afterwards. Bottom line, you can’t go stick the oil tank problem on the next person, it is unethical and immoral and the buyer will find  an attorney that will sue you.  Let’s say your property has an oil tank and you have to spend money to remove and remediate, well whatever that cost is $5,000.00 or $8,000.00 or whatever amount, that is a cost the estate must bear.  Whatever the estate is worth, it is worth that amount less whatever the cost of the tank issue is, If there even was an oil tank.

What to know the ending of this story, what happen to the estate?   Did the siblings in Florida get help?  Did the first buyer come back to buy the house after doing a tank scan?   Call our office to find out at 856-858-9509 or email us at info@CurrenEnvironmental.com. Curren offers a free consultation to address your oil tank questions; we know you have one because you just read our story. (Check out this story from an Estate in CA)

 

Tags: oil tank removal nj

They removed my oil tank - but it leaked. What do I do now?

Posted by david sulock on Sep 18, 2015 1:51:16 PM

                                

 

Underground Oil Tank Removed                Leak in the Oil Tank

Underground Oil Tank (UST) removal is a once in a lifetime occurrence for the small group of people who have to undertake this project.  Of those individuals, 9 times out of ten even their friends probably have never had a tank removed.  Leaving just the few unlucky homeowners with a project that if evidence of an oil leak is found from the tank, it can quickly escalate the cost of the project.  Homeowners with no knowledge or experience in oil tank leaks or network of friends who have experience in this type of project are forced to rely on the integrity of the firm that removed the oil tank.  

Here at Curren, we constantly receive calls from homeowners who had an oil tank removed for a somewhat loss leader price of between $1,000 and $1,500. After the tank is removed the homeowner is told that the tank leaked and remediation is needed.  Usually a day or a week after tank removal, a proposal is presented for remediation, which typically is priced between $8,000and $15,000. The Homeowner contacts Curren to provide a competitive price to remediate as they were not expecting such an expense.  Being professionals we request the diagnostic or delineation laboratory testing from the tank area so we know (1) the concentration of oil in the ground is above 5100 ppm for EPH so remediation is required and (2) the extent of the oil leak (depth and length and width of the area) has been defined or delineated as is common industry parlance.  

What do we hear when we ask for hard empirical evidence, documentation that a homeowner should receive from the tank removal company?  

  1. No soil testing was done it was not in your contract.
  2. The company just knows because they have been doing this for a long time.
  3. It was a small leak as evidenced by the holes in the tank.
  4. My sniff meter (PID) says it is bad.

What all those responses really mean are “We didn’t want to waste your $120.00 to do a test and find out you really don’t have much of a problem.  We thought it was in our best interest, not yours to just tell it is bad and give you an expensive quote to remediate and in all honesty, we do not even know if you need remediation.  If we did test the soil and find out the levels are below 5100 ppm (which is a fair amount of oil) you probably would not need to remediate and we would not make as much money.

The field meter they use to tell you there is oil in the ground.  Well that is more for presence or absence of oil.  There is NO correlation as to what registers on the meter in the field and what the actual laboratory result would be. 

Well, being scientific we know that those three answers are based on no factual information, except perhaps that fact that a homeowner wants to know what the cost will be when they are told their tank leaked.  Uncertainty is not a desirable feeling regarding a problem that you often hear can cost tens of thousands of dollars.  $8,000 or $15,000 is better than $20,000 or $40,000 so often times, homeowners are upset but also relieved, as at least they know what they are facing.  Here is the shocker they do not.  If an oil tank leaks (or you are told your tank leaks) the only way to know how far the oil has spread is one of two ways as follows:

  1. Drilling through the middle of the excavation and obtain soil samples to determine at what depth the oil tank leak stopped migrating vertically. Repeating this step on each of the four sides of the removed tank excavation to determine how far the oil has spread to the north, south, east and west.  This is called delineation.  Look at it in perspective, god forbid you are diagnosed with cancer, you will not undergo treatment or surgery until testing is done to define the extent of the cancer right? 
  1. In science, there are equations to determine all sorts of things. To determine how far a liquid such as oil will flow through a given media (the soil) you simple need the following information:
    1. When the leak occurred (number of days or years).
    2. Rate of oil leak (per day amount is most helpful).
    3. Amount of oil that leaked.
    4. Amount of rain that occurred during the leak period.
    5. The porosity of the soils where the tank is located.

With these nuggets of information, you can model APPROXIMATELY the extent to which the oil has migrated.  In any event, unless you have the information in items A thru F, how can you model the leak range?  The answer is you cannot.  You can guess, but who wants to rely on a guess?   We know you want answers right away when you are told your tank leaks, but you have to look at things in perspective and realize that without proper evaluation you cannot be accurate.

Let us circle back to your original tank removal project.  Expensive but not too bad at $1,000 to $1,500 on average is an expense most people can begrudgingly swing, particularly if it allows them to sell their house.   We often times call low ball tank removing pricing a Loss Leader (think cheap price per pound for turkeys at Thanksgiving to get you in the store) or hooking, to get people to buy the service or get on the hook so that the bigger project/expense (remediation) can be obtained.  Take a look at the contract, does it include.

  1. Cost for soil samples?
  2. Why you would want to take soil samples if the tank is found to be leaking?
  3. What soil sample results mean in relation to NJDEP regulations.
  4. A report that is supplied after tank removal to document the work and certify whether it did or did not leak?

If you do not have any of these four items and I can tell you from experience, 90% of the consumer contracts Curren reviews do not. The homeowner who signs these contracts is potentially being led down a slippery, costly slope. We often times see the next step after the owner gets their tank removed is an expensive contract to remediate, that is based on zero scientific data.  The most alarming of all this, is that on sites where Curren is brought in to investigate a reported tank leak, 80% of the time and let me say that again 80% of the time, the tank area DOES NOT REQUIRE remediation.  I stress this as a professional organization we acquire and review data, interpret the information and provide opinions based on our review of the factual information.  In full disclosure Curren, removes oil tanks, tests tank areas and performs remediations.  Of these three services, remediation is always the most expensive, so although we are happy to remove oil tanks and test tank areas, we are equally willing to remediate oil tank leaks IF IT IS WARRANTED, if there is a driver, meaning oil in the ground above permissible limits.  The NJDEP allows a certain amount of oil in the ground, did the tank removal tell you that, in writing,   verbally, probably not.

The point here is that oil tank removal and remediation of oil tank leaks (when warranted) are projects where homeowners must go into with eyes wide open.  From our experience, there is a large pool of firms that do not properly manage the exceptions of homeowners and rush these homeowners into costly remediations that are not warranted.  Yes, we know often times you are removing a tank due to a pending real estate transaction, and everything is time sensitive, but that is not an excuse to make a bad decision.

No matter where you are in the tank removal project (pre removal, post removal, possibly remediation, if you want facts, solid professional advice call Curren at 888-301-1050 or email at info@currenenvironmental.com What you have just read is what we tell homeowners repeatedly, as they feel like the firm they are talking to or have contracted with is not working in their best interest.

 

Tags: oil tank removal nj

Oil Tank Removal in New Jersey

Posted by david sulock on Jan 28, 2011 9:00:00 PM

The purpose of this document is to provide a concise reference to the preferred practices and procedures for oil tank removals in NJ. 

oil tank removal nj 

Buried oil tanks raise a variety of environmental, safety, legal and economic concerns for home owners and home buyers. The largest concern relates to the environmental issues that are caused when the oil tank leaks and causes  soil or groundwater  contamination. 

The following is a breakdown of the proper steps that should taken in order to remove your residential oil tank. 

Step 1: Permitting 

Local construction/demolition and/or fire subcode permits need to be applied for and the permits approved by the municipal office.     Once the local permits are approved, it is typical that the local inspector will need to be onsite for all or a part of the removal activities.  Permit application, insuring permit approval and scheduling of local inspectors is always done by Curren Environmental before removing the oil tank. 

Step 2: Underground Utilities 

State law requires that before any excavation activities can commence, a utility markout will need to be performed. The company performing the oil tank removal should call for an underground markout through “NJ One Call”.  t is the law in New Jersey and other states, to call for a utility markout before you dig. Make sure the company you choose to remove the tank obtains a markout confirmation number.  It protects all parties involved. 

Step 3: Oil Tank Cleaning 

Cleaning of the tank will consist of wiping, squeegeeing and removing all liquids and sludges from the tank.  Liquids are then either  placed into onsite storage containers or a vacuum truck. . 

Step 4: Oil Tank Removal    

It is recommended that all oil tanks be removed from the ground  when taking a tank out of service.  (In some instances when removal of the oil tank may damage the integrity of the structure an abandonment in place can be performed.)  By removing the tank from the ground a site assessment can be performed to determine if the tank has maintained integrity. 

Step 5: Oil Tank Site Assessmen

After the oil tank is removed a site assessment can performed by Curren’s certified NJDEP Subsurface Evaluator.  The site assessment to evaluate whether contamination is present in the excavation can be carried out in a variety of ways  while the tank is being removed. 

▸   Evidence of contamination can be determined from product odors, product stained soils, and/or visual evidence of free product.   

▸   Inspection of the Underground Storage Tank, (UST), for evidence of corrosion or perforations. 

▸   By a series of observations and measurements during the tank excavation and decommissioning operations such as  soil and ground water sampling and analysis. 

In New Jersey the standard analytical testing method for #-2 heating oil is Extractable Petroleum Hydrocarbons (EPH). All samples must be submitted to an independent NJDEP licensed laboratory for analysis.  EPH results are measured in part per million or ppm. Samples results above 5,100 ppm are actionable and require remedial activities to be completed.   EPH results  between 1,000 ppm and 5,100 ppm require an additional analysis. 

Step 6: Backfilling 

Once the tank is removed from the ground the void space must be backfilled with clean certified  fill.  The general equation for backfilling is five cubic yards of backfill material for every 1000 gallons of storage capacity.  For example a 500-gallon tank would require 2.5 cubic yards of fill material.  Suppling and installing the backfill is always performed by the firm removing the tank and should be included in tank removal cost. 

Step 7: Site Investigation Report - Tank Certification

Curren Environmental will prepare a Site Investigation Report which will document the tank removal activities.  The report will detail the heating oil tank removal and provide certification of the tank removal.   The report will include the following information: 

   1.  Copy of the local permit for tank removal 
   2.  Liquid receipt from the tank cleaning. 
   3.  A thorough written description of the tank removal activities. 
   4.  Photo documentation of tank removal (if available). 
   5.  A copy of the tank scrap receipt. 
   6.  Any applicable laboratory test results. 
   7.  A detailed text description of the condition of the tank and if any petroleum contamination was noted in the tank excavation. 

Curren Environmental, Inc. is a licensed by the  New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) to perform closure activities associated with Underground Storage Tanks, (USTs).   

Tags: oil tank grants, tank grants, NJDEP oil tank removal grant, free oil tank removal, oil tank removal, oil tank removal new jersey, oil tank removal nj, tank removal, tank removal grants