Hot Environmental Topics

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

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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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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

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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Oil Tank Removal New Jersey

Sep 17, 2019 9:08:46 AM / by David C Sulock posted in oil tank removal new jersey, NJDEP HOTS, underground oil tanks

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You recently had your oil tank removed and there were holes in the tank. However, there are no indications of soil contamination but the company that removed the oil tank filed a report to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP). You are unaware that you may have been naïve in choosing your oil tank removal company due to the fact that removing an oil tank hopefully would be a once in a lifetime event. At this point, you understand that clearly your tank removal contract should have included soil sampling, but it did not. You are also unaware that soil sampling must be completed, then the report is sent to NJDEP to close out the case number (assuming that it meets the state parameters for acceptable oil levels) and rescind the remedial action. 

residential oil tank removal

Regarding what soil sampling is and how it is performed, there are permissible levels of oil that can remain in the ground and conversely there are levels that would require remediation. New Jersey regulations require that upon removal of an oil tank that has evidence of a leak, you are to obtain a minimum of 5 soil samples from the tank excavation (5 for a 500 gallon tank and 6 for a 1000 gallon tank). This is relative to your contract for tank removal. If the contract did not reference soil sampling, you can’t guarantee soil samples would be obtained. Soil samples are critical to assess the tank excavation for petroleum levels. The testing is meant to inform the property owner if indeed oil levels are present and remediation is warranted or that levels are within permissible limits and can be left in place. Now, you, as the owner of the oil tank that leaks can make an informed decision regarding remediation. 

If your tank removal contract does not include costs for soil sampling or discusses the possibility of finding a tank leak, it is pretty safe to assume that the tank removal company is looking to find a leaking tank and remediation.

In a situation where a tank is removed, found to be leaking and no soil sampling was performed, you should be concerned as to whether the soil needs remediation. All discharges are required to be reported to the NJDEP (If your tank contract doesn’t inform you that a tank leak is reportable, think again about who you are hiring).

oil tank removal New Jersey
Example of soil testing by soil borings


The only way you would know if your tank leak has petroleum contamination in the soil above or below NJDEP permissible limits is to have soil sampling performed. If all your samples are in compliance with NJDEP regulations you will receive a No Further Action (NFA) letter that will close out the NJDEP case number. This can be performed without having to perform actual remediation, which is typically soil removal.

Again, the tank removal contract should have addressed obtaining soil samples and what to do if a leak was noted. Remember, holes are never good in an oil tank and you rarely will see physical evidence of an oil discharge in a tank excavation, meaning you are not going to see oil or stained soils.

Expert advice with over two decades of tank removal experience. Curren Environmental, Inc.

Call Curren Today

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Should you test oil tanks?

Sep 10, 2019 8:00:30 AM / by david sulock posted in oil tank removal nj, tank removal, oil tank, underground oil tanks

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If an oil tank has been removed and showed no visible signs of leaking, should soil samples still be taken? An oil tank was removed and showed no visible signs of leaking, the tank removal contractor did a pressure test and passed. As the buyer of the property, I am concerned that the tank area has not been tested.

testing removed oil tanks

To test or not to test an oil tank at time of removal? We get that question almost daily from both owners of tanks and purchasers of a property where a tank will be or was removed. Should you test an oil tank?

Does your dentist test your teeth via x-ray to look for problems? Does a doctor perform testing on patients? Can you determine cholesterol from just the physical appearance of a patient? My point being throughout life you have professionals performing testing to evaluate your health, testing a removed oil tank is the same principal.

The most important question about an oil tank is if it leaked. Owners of tank don’t want to test because they don’t want to find a problem. Buyers want oil tank testing performed because they don’t want to buy a property where an oil tank leaked.

The cost for testing most tanks at time of removal is a couple hundred dollars. Not a budget breaker for sure but finding even a small leak can cost thousands of dollars to address and the party responsible for cleaning up any tank leak is the property owner. So, buying a property with a tank leak (even if the buyer didn’t know if the tank leaked at time of purchase) is the responsibility of the property owner.


Common scenario, buyer want to purchase a home that had prior oil heat. The oil tank was removed previously (tank removed years ago). Sometime the tank was removed by the current property owner, sometime the tank was removed by a previously owner and the current owner was not aware of the liability from oil tanks and didn’t question the lack of testing. Buyer is concerned about buying a home where a tank was removed. So, in addition to performing a home inspection, the buyer wants soil testing completed from the removed oil tank grave. Post removal testing involves drilling and obtaining soil samples from the former tank location. Do we find some level of oil when we test removed tank location, yes. Do we find remediation is required from this testing, sometimes yes. Is the owner shocked when wee find contamination from removed tank areas? Sometimes owners are surprised as they bought the home prior to removal and didn’t view the oil tank as a liability. But there are definitely times where the owner has a hint that oil would be found and was hoping no one would look.


Testing removed tank locations is not as easy as you would expect. As time passes the restored ground returns to normal and little evidence of the tank grave is visible. Owners have selective memory of where the tank was and often point to absurd locations where the tank was removed. This requires sleuthing on our part and performing rows of soil boring to attempt to find the proverbial oil tank in the haystack. Any detection of oil found from a tank area is reported to the state as a spill clearly occurred.

Photo with boring info on it

Know before you buy a property that had oil heating. Testing is always advised by tank removal companies (The good ones at least). If testing was not performed, you have to ask, why? Buy a home with an oil tank leak and you just purchased an oil tank cleanup.


Over 20 years’ experience with oil tanks. Want expert advice? Call the experts’ 888-301-1050.

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Good vs. Bad Underground Oil Tanks. Which Tank do you have?

Aug 22, 2019 11:29:00 AM / by Tiffany Byrne posted in tank removal, oil tank, underground oil tanks

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Questions that are quite often asked “Do I have a good underground oil tank or a bad one?”, or “What is the difference between a good or bad underground oil tank?”. Answering questions regarding underground oil tanks is an easy one, if your tank has been under ground since tanks started being buried (late 1940’s to early 1950’s), then there is no good or bad tank – you need to remove that oil tank. The tank has exceeded any functional and reasonable life expectancy.

In situations when the underground oil tank is still in use and older , the oil tank should be removed and replaced with an aboveground oil tank. Ask yourself a simple question, “Would you buy the house with an oil tank that old in the ground?”.

Tank Removal Question

Underground Oil Tank with holes

Anything subject to corrosion such as a metal tank deposited in the ground has a finite life span, time will cause any underground oil tank to leak. There are no warrant

ies for oil tanks that were placed into the ground over 40/20 years ago. Warranties on oil tanks that are bought today have only a 1 to 10-year warranty. Also, you most likely do not even have insurance that would cover an oil tank leak at this point. Insurance companies started to negotiate covering oil tanks and began removing coverage when the carriers suffered huge claims from underground oil tanks leaking years ago.

Why remove your underground oil tank? You may not see the tank or use the tank but the longer it sits underground the more time it has to rust and for holes to occur, causing oil or residual oil to seep into the ground. Many oil tanks that Curren Environmental remove were in use and found to be leaking and showed no evidence of leakage to the owner prior to removal.

What if you decided to sell your property? Today with that oil tank in the ground, the “buyer” would have a difficult time getting a mortgage and homeowners insurance. You underground oil tank is not “good” sitting underground waiting to for removal. Again, consider if you would buy the home again knowing what you know now about oil tanks.

How would yooil tank delineationu know if you had a “bad” oil tank? You won’t know anything about that oil tank until its removed and soil samples are provided. Soil samples are grabbed directly beneath the oil tank once it has been removed. Those soil samples are taken to an independent lab, analyzed and a report is provided to the client discussing if those soil samples are Non-Detect (ND) or above standards. More information can be found here regarding sampling. Each state has different regulations regarding how much oil is allowed in the soils. NJ is one of the strictest states regarding oil tank removal and contaminated soils.

If you know the age of your oil tank, there were differences between the 1950’s tanks as opposed to the 1970’s tanks. The steel from the 1950’s was stronger and thicker, meaning if the tank was built and put in the ground during that era, the steel may last longer. But remember, if it was put under ground that was over 60-70 years ago! Even if that tank is no longer in use, why keep it in the ground? Nothing is meant to last forever – well maybe plastic water bottles.

There are no good or bad underground oil tanks, just underground oil tanks that need to be removed. To learn more on the removal of your underground tank, soil sampling and costs contact Curren Environmental today by filling out the Form to the right or by calling us now.

Call Curren Today

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