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Home Inspection finds a buried oil tank.

Jul 21, 2021 11:03:09 AM / by david sulock posted in OIl Tank Sweeps, tank sweep, gpr tank swep, foam filling oil tank, gpr tank sweeps, gpr tank scan

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What  happens when a home inspection finds a possible underground oil tank?

A common request our office receives regarding a tank sweeps.

"Hello, I'm selling my home and we suspect that the buyer did a tank sweep with a metal detector vs GPR. They supposedly think they found a tank on the property. We do not see any evidence of a tank, nor was one disclosed by the previous owner (who bought the home in the 70s, house is 80 years old). Is it possible that this 'tank' is just a gutter drain pipe, part of our sprinkler system and/or rubble backfill such as a chunk of concrete sidewalk with rebar or metal containing soil? If so, would a GPR scan be conclusive? Thanks."

This is a common situation we get from property owners who are told they have a buried oil tank.   The owner has the question regarding if the meta detector is reliable.    Here are some common talking points...
  1. The property owner is unclear how the suspect tank was found.  Was it found with a Metal detector, or  Ground Penetrating Radar or both? (both GPR and a metal detector would be best) The solution would be having the owner receive a copy of the Tank Sweep Report so they would have a baseline regarding what they found and where. Yes, every professional service should come with a report, no report, then question how professional the service was.
  2. The property is over 70 years old, so while the owner has no knowledge that there was an oil tank, they also have no documentation that there was not an oil tank. A 70 year old property most likely had oil heat at one point in time as oil was very popular in the past and other fuel sources such as natural gas was not commonly available or financially appealing until the 1970's.
  3. The tank scan found a buried object, presumably metal. If only a metal detector was utilized, you can't say 100% if the metal found is a tank as metal detectors detect metal and properties have all sort of buried metal. Metal can be in the soil naturally, you could have buried debris, buried metal pipes or surface metal (like a fence) that distracted the metal detector and have a false buried metallic signature reading. Happens all the time. A metal detector on a sandy beach is great it will find buried metal, likely a bottle cap, but people hope for coins or expensive jewelry. People paying a couple hundred dollars for someone to use an $800 metal detector to find a tank are also helpful.
Call Curren TodayThe photo below was where a metal detector thought there was a tank.  There was no tank, just soils with a metallic signature.

tank home inspection

The guy in shorts, is using a $900.00 metal detector and found a suspect tank in the front yard.

metal detector tank scan

When you scan for a tank, the more expensive the equipment the better.   GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) costs tens of thousands of dollars because it has the technology to do the job.

best oil tank sweep with gpr

 Effective Oil Tank Scan or Oil Tank Sweeps like on commercial sites would use GPR as it will                            provide a signal (image) of buried objects.

buried oil tank found via GPR

The signal above shows the underground oil tank. 

Purchasers of commercial properties are more aware of the liability associated with leaking USTs (Hundreds of thousands of dollars) compared to a residential home buyers (Homeowners think a few thousand dollars is a lot.) So on the commercial side of real estate tank sweeps are completed with GPR, not metal detectors. Most environmental consultants that perform tanks weeps will use GPR and discount the cost for residential sites. Nobody wants to see someone buy a house and find a $50,0000 cleanup is required.

What if a buyer finds a suspect tank?

This is a really hard question because it relies so much on the quality of the tank sweep.    If they used GPR, if the property is likely to have had an oil tank (older the home, the more likely) and if the buried anomaly has the signature of a tank.  Well then you have to excavate and confirm that object is an oil tank.

Who pays for the oil tank removal?

Owner will pay 98% of the time as finding a hidden oil tank is a defect that needs to be addressed.

Do they have buried oil tanks at the beach (shore)?

If the home wanted heat, then yes homes along the coast and on islands had buried oil tanks.  Oil was king up until the late 1970's in New Jersey.  The photo below is of a home we scanned on a barrier island.  Many older beach houses eventually converted to natural gas, as gas could also  fuel the stove, dryer,  hot water heater etc.   After conversion to gas, it was not uncommon that the tank was just left in the ground.  So short answer beach houses had oil tanks.

Tank sweeps at the beach

What if a suspect tank is found and we don't believe its a tank?

Short answer prove your opinion right and dig it up and verify its not a tank.

What is the best tank sweep?

Using Ground Penetrating Radar is the best technology for finding buried tanks at properties, period.  Can you use a metal detector to verify a GPR signal that identified a tank?  Sure, always verify the object is metal.  GPR can't penetrate metal so when a GPR sweep pings a tank, it means the radar can't penetrate the object (likely a metal tank) but there are buried concrete tanks.  Metal detectors can verify an object is metal, but a metal detector  should not be used to be your sole technology

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Why is an Oil Tank Sweep Important?

Jan 13, 2020 9:43:00 AM / by david sulock posted in OIl Tank Sweeps, underground oil tanks, tank sweep, gpr tank swep

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                    Why is an Oil Tank Sweep Important?

From 1900 to 1945 coal was king (coal shortages were common during WWI). By the mid 1930’s oil burners had made quality and safety improvements that made oil a competitor to coal. In 1940 more than half the homes burned coal. America oil reserves and steel making prowess from WWII allowed oil to be rapidly adopted after WWII (1945).

In the 1970’s and 80’s due to natural gas shortages and price irregularities the natural gas market become deregulated. Deregulated allowed for competition and market based pricing, which meant lower prices, this drove the popularity of natural gas. So natural gas didn’t become popular until the late 1980’s.

For homes built between 1900 and 1980, oil heat was highly probable at some point in the past (in short what were your alternate choices for heat besides oil?). Construction codes didn’t address oil tank removals until the 1990’s. Environmental regulations today have strict standards for heating oil leaks from tanks in soil and groundwater. In short, an oil tank leak can make the owner of a property a polluter so to speak. On top of that the regulations view the current owner of a property as the Responsible Party (RP) for the cleanup.

Today, you could buy a house built in 1950, that used oil until say 1980, when a conversion to gas occurred. The old oil tank was literally just left in place (abandoned), since doing anything cost money. Fast forward to 2020, you are buying that home with an oil tank that hasn’t been used in decades. If you don’t add a tank sweep with GPR (ground penetrating radar) to your home purchase due diligence you are opening your self up to a responsibility and an expense with the oil tank, as when you sell someone will do a tank sweep and find the tank you never knew you had or used, which happens all the time.

Today the internet is used not just for shopping, but for education. There are homeowners that have an oil tank on their property (used or out of service), these homeowners have learned via the internet (websites like this one) of the liability of an oil tank. We find that some people will hide the evidence of the tank and hope that no one looks for an oil tank, since the home is now heated by natural gas. Do you find it hard to believe that someone would try to hide the truth? Follow this story.

Home went under contract, home inspection and all, everything but a tank sweep with GPR was performed by the purchaser of the home. One day before settlement the prospective homeowner does a walk through of the property and low and behold someone spray painted "tank" on the ground. (this is a true story. I couldn’t make things like this up).

Why tank sweeps with GPR are important

 

Home was a flip, so the owner (really owner for 7 months) had no knowledge of any oil tank. Curren scanned the marked area and bingo oil tank, about ¼ full of oil. We can only speculate as to why the tank was hidden and why someone spray painted tank on the sidewalk. The general theory is a neighbor was aware of a tank at that location and also aware the owner removed evidence of the tank. Presumable the neighbor removed their tank and didn’t appreciate the neighbor not doing the right thing and removing theirs. We believe this is a likely scenario as we have seen it on other sites that we have performed tank scans/sweeps. People will park cars in driveways over tanks. People will say a tank was removed and we scan the area and find a metal object indicative of a tank.

oil tank sweeps find tanks



We even have people who have removed their own tanks, we get contracted to do soil borings and soil sampling from the removed tank area. $35,000.00 later, we find that the tank did leak, the owner just thought that oil is naturally present in a removed tank excavation.

 

Leaking removed oil tank cleanup

Bottom line you cannot rely on statements from a seller such as these:

There is no oil tank.

That the tank was removed

The removed tank didn’t leak.

Do you need to complete a tank sweep? Yes, if the home was built before 1980 and you can’t get 100% written documentation that natural gas was always utilized to heat the dwelling.

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Why every home should have a tank sweep?

Nov 18, 2019 9:15:00 AM / by david sulock posted in Due Diligence, underground oil tanks, tank sweep with gpr, tank sweeps with GPR, tank sweep, gpr tank swep

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Curren Environmental has been solving tank related issues for over 20 years.   Oil tanks were like cell phones, they were ubiquitous in homes in the Northeastern United States.  Oil was king as the graph shows:

 

Does my home have an oil tank?

Oil heat was more popular than natural gas up until 1980!

In 1950 43.9% of homes had oil heat

In 1960 62.9% of homes had oil heat

In 1970 52.6% of homes had oil heat

 

So in 2019, what are the odds the home your buying has or had an oil tank? Pretty high for sure.   

 

oil tank leak and remediation

 

Tank Scans with GPR = Buyer Due Diligence

 

Scan for oil tanks before you buy a home

 

A tank scan found this tank.  You can see from the many holes in the tank, that the tank leaked.   Thankfully the home buyer had a tank sweep completed and found the tank.  The homeowner had to remove and remediate the oil tank.   

 

Oil Tank sweep found a leaking oil tank

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