Hot Environmental Topics

Why does my filled in place tank have to be removed?

Aug 27, 2020 9:30:00 AM / by David C Sulock posted in oil tank removal nj, tank removal, tank leak, tank abandoned in place, filled in place tank

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Why my filled in place tank has to be removed?

(aka Closed in place tank has to be removed to sell a property)

Every tank needs a report with testing to say the tank did not leak. Tanks abandoned in place avoid having testing performed which negates finding out if the tank did or did not leak.

Photo Jul 23, 11 10 39 AM

Case in point, the above photo is a tank that was filled with foam.  You will notice that there are no access holes cut into the tank that would have allowed tank entry.  Yes you can see the large horizontal access hole Curren cut into the tank, but  no such hole was there before, which means the tank was never cleaned of residual oil.  See the oil in the tank and on the foam?filled in place tank removal You can see that to clean a tank you need elbow grease to go inside the tank, any oil left in a tank can leak in the future, hence why closed in place are removed.filled in place oil tank removal

Remember when people thought smoking was healthy?   There was a time when people and the tobacco industry didn’t openly speak of cigarettes as being unhealthy or addictive. This correlates to tanks that were previously filled in place without a “non-leaking certification”.   Few people want to find a problem, meaning their tank leaked, since problems have to be solved and that can cost money.   Oil tanks rust from the inside and out, and the cleanup of these leaks can cost thousands if not tens of thousands of dollars.

Photo Jan 13, 9 50 43 AM

This tank was filled with sand, to absorb the oil in the tank, rain water filled the tank pushing the oil up and out into the soils.  $29,000 later the tank was removed and the soil remediated.

filled in place UST

Oil tank filled with sand removal

 

Filled in place oil tank remediation

Many property owners either being naïve or savvy had their buried tanks filled in place years ago.  Believing or hoping that if they hired a company to fill their tank (not a DIY project) and getting a local permit in conjunction with township/municipal inspection the tank would never be an issue. Fast forward to today, same property is being sold and its owned by either the same people who filled the tank in place or a subsequent homeowner (who typically naively bought the property not understanding the tank liability) and now the buyer wants the tank removed and tested.

These are all reasons why today's buyers want oil tanks removed and tested, to prevent the tank from being an issue in the future.

Call Curren Today

Tank foam filled and not cleanedStatements from property owners calling our office about their tank over the past 25 years.

  1. I don’t want to remove the tank and find a problem, its legal to fill it in place, I want to do that.
  2. Why do I want to test the tank and find a problem?
  3. I want the tank filled in place, I don’t want testing.
  4. My tank was filled in place but they put a camera into the tank before filling it in place.  (Absurd, but a few people a year say this)
  5. My tank was filled in place and tested. (Unfortunately I can find the paperwork for filling the tank I just cant find the testing data.  (Because it was never tested)
  6. My tank was tested before filling in place, but a different company did the testing and I can’t find the eating data.  (No one pays two companies to do something one company can do, unsurprisingly these people cant find anything regarding testing, contract, invoice cancelled check.  We call this unicorn paperwork, only the pure of heart can see it)
  7. Removing the tank will disturb my prized lawn, bush, special tree, sprinkler line, flower bed, etc.   They never say it was a bad idea beautify the area above the oil tank.

A little history, in the 1990’s Federal regulations were established regarding commercial tanks (gas, diesel, kerosene, aviation fuel) and there were clauses where a commercial tank could not economically be removed that the tank could be filled in place, AFTER holes were created in the bottom of the tank allowing soil sampling for leaks to be obtained.  

 

Holes in the bottom of an oil tank

sampling a closed in place tank

These regulations created a tank removal/closure industry and established standards for tank removal and closure in place, these standards said evaluate for leaks, do testing, document (draft a report of the work), report leaks to appropriate government environmental agencies.   So companies doing  tank closure had a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).

 

sampling below a tank  2017-02-13 11.34.33   

These photos show coupons (holes) cut into bottom of tank for soil sampling.

Now these testing regulations didn’t apply to residential oil tanks, but there was an awareness that if a leak was discovered it was reportable and cleanup maybe necessary.  So property owners circumvented the proper course of action and instead of removing a tank, and potentially finding holes in the tank or smelling oil impacted soil, they chose the route of tank abandonment in place. While I can comment on every company doing tank work, but I am sure many recommended sampling due to future real estate transactions, but in the end, the companies get paid for doing tank work with or without sampling so you have thousands of tanks that were filled in place without testing that now have to be dealt with in a real estate transactions.  

soil sampling below a tank
We can personally  attest that Curren has always suggested soil sampling for tank removal or closure in place, some people deferred this testing.  About 17 years ago we made it policy, Curren won’t work on your tank if you don’t complete sampling.   We took this stance so property owners didn’t get stuck in a future sale and so people didn’t stick another person with a leaking tank. Unfortunately this was not followed by other companies.

Some 40% of tanks we have removed were tanks previously filled in place, so believe me if you have a property with a tank that was filled in place without testing, you will get it removed if you want to sell the property. 

No you can't climb inside a tank when filling it in place and see pin holes.  Ever get a flat tire?   Did you see the hole?   See the photo below?  This tank was removed, do you see any holes in the tank?

closed in place tank removal
Well there were a few holes that were apparent after the dirt was scrapped off the tank.  If this tank was filled in place and remained in the ground, there holes would not have been apparent if the tank was not removed.

abandoned oil tank leak

Many people like to present the local permit obtained for abandoning the tank.    People somehow think the approval from the town means the tank didn't leak.  Please note that no your local permit which the town approved for filling the tank in place doesn’t certify the tank didn’t leak!  It certifies you filled a tank in place with or without testing (which while legal, makes it harder to sell, ahem near impossible to sell)  mortgage companies, insurance companies and attorneys for buyers will have a hand in preventing the sale with an inground tanks.  Too much liability, unknown cleanup expense is what causes the hesitation.  No one knows if the potential tank cleanup is $10,000.00 or $120,000.00?

oil tank cleanup

If you own a house with an abandoned untested oil tank, expect to either have the tank removed, or the prior work to be reverse engineered, meaning all the material in the tank removed, holes cut in bottom of tank and soil ampler obtained, then the tank back filled again.  We just did this for a tank filled with foam under an addition, so yes it happens.   Buyers will want the know if the tank leaked, trust me if you were buying a property with an abandoned tank you would want to know the same thing. 

Have a tank question?  Call the experts

1-888-301-1050

 

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Buying a House with an abandoned oil tank.

Jun 2, 2020 11:45:00 AM / by david sulock posted in oil tank removal nj, EDA tank grants, tank leak, underground oil tanks, filled in place tank

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If you are purchasing a property with an abandoned oil tank, be concerned that you are playing with fire.  Let's be clear, the concern with any oil tank is if the tank leaks.  If the property with the abandoned oil tank has a report that includes soil testing you should not have any concerns,  but that is not the common situation when a property has an abandoned oil tank.

The real hurdle regarding a property with an abandoned oil tank is that the owner does not want to do anything with the oil tank.    People will say the tank is fine, that they, themselves, purchased the house with the abandoned tank so its fine for those homeowners because they don't have the monies to remove the tank. 

So what is the underlying issue? The homeowner doesn't want to find that the tank is leaking.  It's costly to remediate, and they can easily pass that along to buyers who don't do their due diligence.    In some cases, buyers are tempted to take a credit for tank removal to allow the sale to go through.

oil tank leak

This photo is from a leaking oil tank.  Cleanup cost exceeded a $100,000.00

I cannot advise having the work performed after settlement as you do not have enough data to determine what would be a prudent amount of money to set aside in escrow in the event that the oil tank leaks. For your reference, a small oil leak can cost $5,000.00 to $10,000.00, with larger oil leaks costing tens of thousands of dollars. In the absence of a written narrative (report) from the tank closure company and associated laboratory analysis that would have been performed during the closure activities, you cannot say that the tank does not represent an environmental issue.

Oil tanks represent an unknown financial liability that can affect the value of a home, the ability to obtain a mortgage and homeowners insurance. Since the abandoned oil tank is the hurdle to overcome in a real estate transaction, removing the oil tank is the logical course of action.

An Abandoned tank, closed in place tank, decommissioned tank, can mean many different things.

Abandoned oil tank can mean:

Tank is abandoned, stopped using it and left it "as is".  Think of it as an abandoned car.

abandoned oil tank

This oil tank was abandoned 11 years ago when they switched to natural gas.  About 75 gallons of oil was left in the tank or should I say abandoned.

Oil tanks abandoned in place means something was done to the tank, like filling the tank with sand, stone, concrete or foam.  The question is was the tank cleaned and sampled?   A report would help secure this situation and address concerns of a tank leak.  This situation commonly has no documentation regarding the tank leak, the reason being is the owner didn't want to find  a problem, so no test, no problem can be found.  This is legal, but leaves the unanswered question regarding a tank leak to be answered when the property is sold.

Tank abandoned in place with a permit and inspection by township, city or municipality.   This is the most dangerous of abandoned tanks as buyer and sellers assume that the permit and inspection portion of the work certifies the tank as non leaking.    This is actually not what the town inspects for they inspect for the physical work completed. 

Abandoned oil tank, no paperwork, current owner bought it with the abandoned oil tank.  Tank was abandoned from a prior owner and there were promises that it was done properly but you have no written documentation.

tank abandoned by owner

This tank was abandoned in place, we removed sand, slate pavers, bricks and beneath all that was oil. 

Tanks abandoned in place and the work was done by the homeowner with some friends. No permits, but a really good story about what hard work it was to do.  Yes - this does happen and 99% of the time the DIY tank abandonment is not performed as well as it could have been performed.   Think about it if you have never done something before how good are on your first attempt?

tank abandoned with foam

This tank was foam filled, but the tank was never entered and cleaned.  So oil remained in the tank.   You can see how the foam is discolored from the oil.

 

Tank abandoned in place, but the tank was actually best served to be filled in place due to obstructions.  Meaning there are tanks by pools, under decks, under garages, basically in a location where it would be excessively expensive, even dangerous to remove so the tank gets abandoned in place.  This is common on commercial tanks as commercial tanks are larger and longer and removal causes a larger footprint of disturbance.  In this circumstance after the tank is cleaned samples are acquired and a report documents that yes a steel object remains on the site, but it is technically no longer a tank as it can't hold  liquid (there is a big hole cut into the top of the tank).   This is what we do to document commercial tanks that are abandoned in place, you should expect the same for any residential tank.   Why an abandoned tank may not have a report is either the owner not wanting to test and find a problem, cost, owner went with the cheapest company (cheap means something is lacking) or simply the company that did the work doesn't test, or isn't licensed for testing. 

2020-04-17 11.17.16

2020-04-17 12.02.42

25 plus years of oil tank work, Curren Environmental can confidently say 99% of oil tanks can be removed.  So many abandoned tanks should have been removed but were not.   Don't buy a property with an abandoned tank that you are  not 100% certain it did not leak.

Call Today for Expert Advice and Service. 

1-888-301-1050

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Tank Removal from Homeowners Association Property

Mar 10, 2020 11:15:00 AM / by David C Sulock posted in oil tank removal nj, tank leak, oil tank, oil tank removal pa

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Many planned developments used heating oil.  In developments where the condominiums are housing, the homeowner does not own the land where the oil tank is located. In condominium housing developments most heating oil tanks are usually placed on common ground.    So you have a situation where you must remove the tank from property. The condominium owner does not own the heating oil tank. Homeowner associations, as anyone who has dealt with one, have many restrictions on what you can and can't do, they also make you jump through hoops to remove oil tanks.  These restrictions, while meant to maintain order and assure that work is performed professionally, also add to the oil tank removal cost.  We call these project "White Glove Tank Removals", as they require the white glove treatment.

Curren recently completed a project and  from the photos below, it is hard to differentiate the before and after photos. Hence the white glove treatment. 

IMG_2103

The tank is in the planting bed between the dwelling and the sidewalk.  Planning ahead, allowed the parking spots in front of the tank to be clear to allow access.

IMG_9133

The blue line is an old landscape sprinkler line.

Next you hand excavate to clear PRIVATE utilities.  Most all homeowner's associations have no clear idea regarding what utilities are where, so you hand dig to clear the excavation.

IMG_9137

You dig until the top of the tank is exposed.

removal of previously filled in place oil tank

This tank was previously filled in place with sand. 

IMG_9138-1

To remove the previously installed sand, you have to cut the top of the tank off so the soil can be scooped out.

IMG_9129

Soils were removed and placed into a dump truck that removed the soils from the site.  This tank was in New Jersey and New Jersey doesn't allow you to back fill with soils removed from an oil tank.

IMG_9140

This is the after removal photo.

Tank removed and back filled, almost like we were never there.

Over 20 years of experience and thousands and thousands of tanks removed, when you engage Curren Environmental you get our experience and expertise.  This may be your first and only tank removal, for us it's just what we do.  If you want your project completed professionally, call Curren.

Call Curren Today

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Does the Soil of a Previously Removed Oil Tank Need to be Tested?

Sep 23, 2019 10:51:00 AM / by david sulock posted in tank leak, underground oil tanks

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The story goes, you have a property where an underground oil tank was removed by the previous owner. You as the current owner, didn’t question any environmental issues with the tank removal when you bought it, now you are selling the property and your buyer is asking for testing in the area where the tank was removed.

The previous owner supplied you, the current homeowner, with the following:

  1. Tank removal contract sating it was paid in full.
  2. A copy of the permit for removal from the town
  3. Approval sticker from the construction office

Why are the items above not enough for information regarding an underground oil tank removal to sell the house? In today's real estate market home buyers are more informed and they want iron clad data proving that the oil tank did not leak.

Those three pieces of information (contract, permit and approval sticker) does not prove the tank did or did not leak. The data set you have are just pieces of information, not a cohesive report with a narrative that ends with the conclusion that the tank did not leak. Environmental reports show the proper paperwork as appendices, but the actual report  details the work completed including  the evaluation and testing performed to confirm the tank did not leak. If you are an uninformed buyer, which 15-20 years ago is true, you assumed the tank didn’t leak. But again, in todays market buyers are assuming it did leak as you, the homeowner, have nothing saying to prove otherwise.

Example photos of soil sampling in a previously removed underground oil tank area.

Allow me to elaborate in greater detail - while the tank had a permit for removal and inspection, the construction official is not inspecting for leaks, they inspect if the tank was removed, as per the permit. I have had inspectors BOTH pass and fail removed tanks that did leak. A soil test for soil contamination is around $120.00, (Before 2005 the cost would have been $75.00), not performing soil testing is basically saying the owner does not want to find a problem, it’s not due to cost. 

You have no data from the day of removal that the tank did not leak, for example, a professional opinion from the tank removal company saying the tank did not leak. Don’t you think if it didn’t leak there would be something in writing? If it did leak, there is a high probability that they did receive the appropriate data from the removal company, but that piece of paper or email has been "lost".

There are laws regarding reporting an environmental leak from an oil tank when that leak is found. Prior to August of 2018, this law stated that a knowledgeable party was to report the leak, so a tank removal company telling a homeowner that the tank leaked and providing the NJDEP them the phone number to call, was very common. The question is if the homeowner actually reported the leak? Since August of 2018, the regulation requires the property owner to report the leak, but again, can you trust someone to report on themselves?

Call Curren TodayWe had a call recently from a home buyer on the same street and town where Curren Environmental previously removed an underground oil tank. The house the buyers found had an underground oil tank removed in 1995, the current homeowners had the removal permit and contract, but no soil testing data and no environmental report of removal, proving the tank did not leak. We provided compliance sampling for new buyer and found soil contamination. Thankfully for the buyers the property did not need remediation, but there was NJDEP reporting and further testing to close the environmental issue (about $4,500.00 in costs, also adding about two months to the settlement date). The tank did indeed leak, but no one reported it. If the buyer didn’t hire Curren they would have been sitting on a property with soil contamination they had neither created nor knew about but would have owned none the less, and no doubt a future buyer would have found.

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Why performing a tank sweep is important when buying a home.

Feb 18, 2019 11:05:23 AM / by david sulock posted in tank leak, OIl Tank Sweeps, tank scans

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Why performing a Tank Sweep?

There are many inspections performed when buying a home, and most are cursory visual inspections of the HVAC system, soffits, chimneys, foundation, plumbing, sidewalks, decks, swimming pools, etc.  These building components are commonly evaluated as part of your home inspection.  What is missed by many buyers is the environmental liability aspect of purchasing a home. Environmental can be asbestos, radon, mold, lead paint and oil tanks.  Of all these environmental liabilities, oil tanks represent the biggest risk relative to remedial cost.  A hidden underground oil tank can cost a couple thousands of dollars to a new homeowner if it's not caught during the inspection process.  Worse is when an oil tank leaks, which can lead to costs into the tens of thousands of dollars.

 oil tank scan

When people are on the fence about doing a tank sweep, all I tell them is not to be surprised that when they sell the home in the future and a tank sweep is performed by that buyer.

Over the past 20 years oil tank sweeps, oil tank scans and/or oil tank inspections have become a common part of the home buying process.

Why perform an oil tank sweep?

Oil tanks belong to a property and if you buy a home with an oil tank you bought all the costs associated with the tank, meaning tank removal, soil testing and most expensive remediation (if required). 

The photo below is a remediation of a leaking oil tank.

oil tank leaking-5

Oil heat was popular in the Northeastern United States from the 1930's to the mid 1980's, this time frame encompasses a large part of the homes in the Northeast, meaning chances are the home you are looking to purchase utilized oil heat in the past.  Also homes built before 1930, most likely had oil heat. since coal was phased out as soon  as a homeowner had a chance to switch, since coal required physical feeding the furnace several times a day during the heating season.

More info on Tank Sweeps

 

What percentage of tank sweeps find prior oil heat?

With over 20 years experience with oil tanks, we have crunched the numbers and find an average of about 75% of the tank sweeps find evidence of prior oil heat.  That number should not be that surprising since natural gas really only became popular in the 1970's.

Who pays for a tank sweep?

Buyers typically pay for the tank sweep as it is part of their due diligence.  Due diligence is what a reasonable person would do to investigate a property for problems prior to ownership.

Do property owners ever do tank sweeps?

Most property owners do not perform tank sweeps as they do not want to find an oil tank.

 

The photo below shows a tank found by Curren during a GPR scan.   Home built 1978, sold in 2016, with no  tank sweep.

oil tank sweeps for home purchase

 

Tank scan with Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) or metal detector?

You should use both GPR and a metal detector to be thorough when performing a tank scan or tank sweep. Rely on GPR the most as it is what commercial sites use, metal detectors are more to prove that the object found by GPR is metallic.  Remember, the best equipment is the most expensive, an $800.00 metal detector on Amazon.com should not be relied upon.

 

Tank Sweep Questions?

 

Metal detectors beep if they find iron sand (a real thing), buried pipes, get too close to a metal fence or a structure with metal (yes homes have metal) or simply encounter buried metallic trash.   GPR uses a screen so the geophysical technician can see the graphical image detected by the GPR antenna.     Larger signals are tanks, smaller signals are usually pipes.

Tank sweeps with GPR

Do you need a Ground Penetrating Radar/ Tank Scan?  Call Curren Environmental Today.

1-888-301-1050 

 

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

Jul 25, 2018 9:11:47 AM / by david sulock posted in oil tank removal, oil tank removal new jersey, oil tank removal nj, tank removal, tank leak, oil tank, oil tank removal pa

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 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   

888-301-1050

 

Tank Removal Question

 

Professional Tank Removal

 

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How long does an Oil Tank Last?

Mar 6, 2018 4:01:00 AM / by David C Sulock posted in oil tank removal new jersey, oil tank removal nj, tank removal grants, tank leak, OIl Tank Sweeps, oil tank

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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

 

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.

 

oil tanks can rust from the inisde

The photo above is the inside of a cleaned and cut open oil tank.   What is really interesting is the rust you see on the bottom of the tank.  This is the corrosive effect of the microbial activity in the tank.  Yes an oil tank can corrode from the inside of the 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 10 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 (water)  leading to corrosion.
  • The oil inside the tank corrodes the tank.   How is it possible that oil can corrode metal.   Bacteria forms in the tank from moisture (condensation), since we want clean air EPA has mandated that the sulfur content in fuel is lower.  An environmental such as a tank of oil with low sulfur is actually a conducive environment for bacteria.  So now you have bacteria thriving in the tank as part of their biological activity corrosive compounds are created from the bacteria that corrode the tank.  You got all that?
  • Above Ground oil tank Leaking
  • 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.  You see the rain water soaks the soil around the tank which hastens corrosions.  Tanks under concrete and asphalt tend to last longer as they are shelter from rain.
  • 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.
  • The tank in the photo was a basement tank, but was buried.  The tank was not rated (designed) for burial.  It leaked as the tank was not thick enough for the harsh environment of a buried tank.
  • 290 gallon tank AST was buried
  • Improper oil tank installation.  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.
  • damaged in use AST
  • 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

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Successful Oil Tank Removal - Avoid Tank Problems

Jun 6, 2017 9:57:36 AM / by David C Sulock posted in NJDEP oil tank removal grant, oil tank removal new jersey, tank removal, tank leak

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Keep in mind that if have an oil tank you need removed, this will most likely be a he only time in your life you will ever have to deal with something like this.  Odds are against you making the best decision regarding removing the underground tank, which is why we have devised this handy tank removal reference guide.   The following information regarding tank removal are a cumulation of 20 years of tank removal experience and speaking to people who had their tank removed and their decision making regret.

Google oil tank leak and you will see some scary web pages. If you are selling a property with a tank and don't you think it's an issue, realize your buyers are reading these pages and they know an oil tank can be an issue.

New Jersey tank removal.jpg

 Here are important oil tank removal fact.

  1. Most oil tanks do not leak.
  2. Most oil tanks that leak do not require expensive remediation and can be addressed by testing.
  3. Every state allows a permissible amount of oil to remain in the ground.

Few if any tank removal firms will tell you these facts.

Tank removals while not cheap can cost between $1200.00 and $2,000.00 on average.  Remediation of leaking oil tanks can cost $10,000.00, $16,000.00, $40,000.00 dollars or more.  Do I have your attention?  Many firms will suck you in with a competitive price on tank removal and then whack you with a bill to remediate the leaking oil tank.   Many people call our office after their tank is removed and after they get an outrageous proposal to remediate.   These tank remediation quotes appear on the same day as tank removal or within a few days and are 90% of the time baseless money grabs.  

Google oil tank removal and you will see some slick web pages, not as scary by any means as the tank leak search. These pages have happy people, testimonials and some sales oriented content. You may be swayed by the nice web pages or even that the company is LOCAL.   Local has nothing to do with an oil tank removal, you probably have a few pizza shops close by and one is your favorite.  Proximity to your property is not like a pizza shop, good environmental companies are not known to be as popular as pizza shops.  Contract with these firms and if your tank has any remote evidence of leaking, you will regret your choice of contracting.  Here is why. 

I had no indication that my tank was leaking and the company I hired agreed.

Big, big trouble is brewing in this sentence.  I would hope that no one wishes ill will on anyone, but let us look at an oil tank leak as a possibility based on the following.

Oil tanks do not last forever and on average a tank lifespan is between 20 and 30 years.

Age of tank.   If your oil tank is the original oil tank for the house and it is older than 30 years, well it has outlasted the refrigerator, washer, dryer, roof, ect. It is most likely the oldest replaceable fixture in the dwelling that was NEVER REPLACED.   So can we agree there is a CHANCE the oil tank maybe leaking?  Just a chance.   If your answer is yes, well should a brief conversation occur about the oil tank leak scenario?  If yes, then the what if my oil tank leaks discussion should be written into your oil tank removal contract, so you know what steps will occur in the event of a leak.   Trust me the answer is yes and your proposal like so many we see will not have the language in there and you are setting yourself up for problems. 

 Soil samples.  You do not want them because soil sampling is not required by law, you do not want to test because you do not want to find a problem.  I mean who wants to go to the doctor, you know the doctor is going to find something wrong.  Soil sampling after a tank is removed is 100% important and not sampling is the biggest mistake you can make. 

Remember the google search for oil tank leak?   Well how are you going to certify the tank did not without testing?   Perhaps you think the township will inspect and certify the tank did not leak?  Wrong their job is a construction inspection, remember they are not licensed to remove an oil tank, the company you hired is licensed and they hold the burden to certify the work. 

leaking oil tank.jpg

How do we certify that a tank did not leak?  

Not by looking at it, believe it or not.  No one knows your cholesterol level without blood work, there are marathon runners that have heart disease, healthy looking people get cancer, my point is looks can be deceiving you cannot look at an oil tank and be 100% certain the tank did or did not leak.   Please do not tell me you will be able to tell if the tank leaked because you are going to look for black oil in the ground, because everyone knows that is how you can tell, WRONG.   The tank is not the Beverly hillbillies, heating oil is not black its dyed red.  (Google it, heating oil is red, no lie).

Back to soil testing, hey if you were buying a house with an oil tank that was removed, wouldn't you want testing completed and a report certifying the tank did not leak?  If you don't care, leave this web page, go play words with friends, understanding the pitfalls of oil tank removal are not your topic of interest. 

Soil testing protects you from unscrupulous tank removal firms that would remove your tank, show you a hole in the tank after removal, show this hole to the construction official, report you to the state and give you a cost to remediate, which is many times more expensive than the tank removal and more profitable for the removal company.

 

Here is the short story of a property where a tank was removed, the tank was found to be leaking and got a quote 

1.Oil tank was removed.

2.Property owner want soil testing.

3. Tank removal company says soil testing is a waste of money.

4. Tank removal company has X-ray vision and can just tell that the tank leak is bad and you need remediation, why test?

5. Owner is told testing is expensive, $5,000.00, true story, owner was told why spend the money to test if you know it leaked?

6. Truth, testing of an oil tank, say a 275 to 550 gallon oil tank would cost under $250.00!  Think that money is worth spending?

7. Owner was given a quote to remediate a day after removal.  

At this step in the tank removal, the ownerr felt something did not add up.  Owner brought in another company to test the removed tank area.   Yes contamination was found, but it was with acceptable standards.  

Success tank removal depends on testing, if you test, you could save thousands in unnecessary oil tank remediation.

If you don't test the soil after a tank is removed, the removal company can quote you an expensive remediation, good for them, not for you.

Why are we posting oil tank removal problems, showing you how to be a better consumer of these services, well we remove tanks but we also help people who had their tank removed and we are repeating their stories for your education.   Unethical tank removal firms give all companies a bad name.   To be frank as well, we get a little tired of hearing the same story over and over again.

 Common compliants after a tank is removed?

My oil tank contract was based on the tank not leaking.  It leaked and I am getting billed alot more than the cost of the removal.

My tank had holes when it was removed and I have to remediate.

My leak was reported to the NJDEP AND NOW I HAVE A CASE NMBER.

The removal company said testing wasn't in my contract so they didn't test.

The removal company said testing was a waste of money and I have to remediate.

Environmental company gives a 10k quote to remediate, my house is under contract for sale and I have to clean up the leak or risk losing the buyer.

 

We have been involved with more projects than I care to count that fits those details. Sit down before I tell you what we find at these sites.

Close to 80% of the time, we find little to no oil in the ground or we find that oil levels are within acceptable levels, meaning no expensive remediation.

The other 20% of the time, well yes, remediation was necessary but sadly, not to the extent they were quoted.

 Do you have questions we didnt answer?   Common oil tank question and answer can be found at Residential Heating Oil Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

 Want to speak to a live person call up MOnday to FRiday 8:00 am to 5:30 pm Esatern Standard time at 856-858-9509

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