Understand the process of a tank sweeps and what happens after a tank sweep.
The best situation regarding a tank sweep is finding a tank, therefore it can be removed and soil tested to prove that no soil remediation (cleanup) is required.
A hidden or an underground oil tank is a major financial liability when buying a home, because rust never sleeps and oil leaks from the tank. Soil remediation from leaking oil tanks can easily cost into the tens of thousands of dollars. A tank sweep of any property is always recommended unless you can document the site never had oil heat, unfortunately older homes had oil heat since it was the only option after coal use.
Should I buy a house with an underground oil tank?
An underground oil tank can make a home harder to sell or worth less to a potential buyer, how does a $32,000.00 oil tank cleanup ding the value of a home? A known oil tank can also increase the chances of complications with getting to the closing table and the home sold. Mortgage lenders are wary of buried oil tanks and may refuse to lend on a home with an underground tank.
What is the life expectancy of an underground oil tank?
The average life of a UST is about 20 years (if you bought a middle of the road tank today, that is your warranty. However, with the tank buried, other factors will influence the lifespan of underground tanks, including the gauge of its steel, geology, corrosivity of the soils, etc.
FACT: most tanks were used past their design life expectancy and left in the ground unused past their life expectancy as well.
How do you manage the liability with an oil tank?
The liability of an oil tank pertains to leaks that occur and the state mandated cleanup of the oil leaks. The best situation regarding a tank sweep is finding a tank so it can be removed and tested to prove that no cleanup is required.
What happens if the tank sweep does not find a tank but points to a tank being removed?
This is not your best scenario because now you do not know if the tank leaked or where the tank was located. Clearly not finding a tank means your investigative work is not complete, because you do not know if the tank leaked. Tank sweeps cannot find removed tanks, so you are tasked with historical research on who removed the tank. Bottom line you have to make an effort to find where the tank was located. Sometimes owners get a conscience and will admit that a tank was removed, they just did not think that knowledge was relevant at that time. Sometimes a tank sweep can point to a likely area of where the tank was located.
We had a case where an owner removed their own tank in the backyard without a permit. They eventually were going to sell the home and did not want the tank as an issue. The final cleanup was around $40,000.00. Someone admitting to a bad thing is not common, but we do see it happen.
Sometimes we can find the tank grave, other times we have to do a grid of soil borings in the suspected area to try and find the tank grave and to test soil.
Tank sweeps that point to a removed tank will lead to soil testing in the area of the removed tank, unless of course a report exists of the tank removal with testing and a clear statement that the tank did not leak. Best case you find no contamination, worst you find contamination, which is reportable to the state and further work would be necessary.
Be aware there have been many tanks that were removed, that leaked and were not cleaned up. Owner hoped no one will look or test the area. If you don't have a report that includes laboratory data saying the tank did not leak, you don't have what you need to remove the liability of the tank.
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