If you use heating oil to heat your home, church, school or small business you may be at risk for costly leaks and environmental damage. Tanks are either above or below the ground. Below ground tanks over 20 years old are at significant risk of leaking. A typical tank is made of steel and, unfortunately, steel is susceptible to rust or corrosion. Over time, corrosion (particularly underground tanks in tight, damp soils) may cause leaks – leading to possible contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water.
Property owners can be liable for contamination caused by leaking tanks. Heating oil tanks should be periodically tested to make sure they are not leaking. The refueling company you use can assist you with testing your tank. A common method of testing is checking the fuel level a few times during the summer months when your tank is not in use.
Tanks that are leaking or no longer in use should be removed or decommissioned to reduce or prevent impacts to the environment and costly cleanup by the property owner. Tanks that have been out of use for more than one year must be removed from the ground or properly abandoned (decommissioned in place). Removing the tanks is strongly recommended over decommissioning in place to remove the source and reduce the risk of future impacts. In addition, most lending institutions will require the removal of tanks prior to a property transfer.
A leaking tank can cause several serious problems:
- Impacts to the soil on the primary and adjacent properties
- Impacts to ground water, which serves as a source of our drinking water
- Impacts to surface waters
- Vapor accumulation under or in nearby buildings
- Collapse of old or unused underground heating oil tanks causing sinkholes
Clean-up insurance is available for in-use heating oil tanks through the State of Washington Pollution Liability Insurance Agency (PLIA). You must be registered with PLIA prior to the start of any accidental release in order for the cleanup to be covered. For more information call 800-822-3905 or visit their website at www.plia.wa.gov/heating/insurance.htm.
The following are Redmond’s aboveground storage tank/underground storage tank decommissioning regulations:
- Permit and site plan is required (there are no fees for permits of tanks under 300 gallons). Obtaining a permit is the responsibility of the homeowner, not the contractor. However, many contractors include this process in their service. If your contractor obtains the permit, make sure you receive a copy.
- Inspection is required by the Fire Department and/or the Wellhead Protection Program.
- Soil tests are required if contamination is identified or if the tank has perforations. (Soil tests are always strongly recommended because they are the only way to legally document that your site is not contaminated.)
Obtain a permit for decommissioning heating oil tanks