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.
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.
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.*
* 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.
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.