When you are selling your home, one of the problems that can occur when the buyer has a home inspection performed, involves underground storage tanks. Occasionally, we run into an underground storage tank (UST) and sometimes they are used for gasoline, but most often they are used for heating oil.
Underground tanks are subject to moisture and rusting can lead to leaks due to failure of the integrity of the tank. Leaking gasoline and heating oil can contaminate ground water, so they are an environmental concern. Most states have regulations regarding these underground storage tanks, so check with your state and local jurisdiction to see what the regulations are for removal or abandonment. According to Maryland’s Department of the Environment, they recommend tanks that are 25 years old or more be replaced with above ground tanks.
If a property is found to have an underground storage tank one way of testing the tank’s integrity and its associated piping, is to have a professional contractor who specializes in UST’s to perform a pressure test to determine if the tank is leaking. Additionally, a soil test around the area of the tank may be performed to determine if there has been any contamination. If it has been disclosed to the buyer that the property has a UST, a potential buyer will have to make a personal decision based on the information at hand, to consider making the removal and replacement of the UST with an above ground tank a condition of the contract or excepting the existing buried oil tank.
A careful inspection should be made to determine if an abandoned UST exists. Occasionally a situation occurs where sometime in the past, a UST will be replaced with an above ground tank or the HVAC system will be changed to an alternative fuel and in either case the old UST will be abandoned in place. Sometimes the current seller may not even be aware of this. These abandoned tanks can be problematic, especially if heating oil was left in the tank. Even if there is no oil in the tank, it may be advisable to remove the abandoned tank. Old tanks may be found to be abandoned in place by removing all oil and filling the tank with cement, sand or a slurry mixture. If in the time since abandonment took place the integrity of the tank failed and heating oil (or gasoline) has leaked into the soil, a regulated removal and environmental clean up will most likely be necessary. The clean up will often require removal of all contaminated soil from the site and disposal of the soil as required by the state and or local government.
We hope that this raises awareness of the problems that can occur when an underground storage tank exists. The information presented here is by no means the entirety of the subject or complete in scope and should be construed as a limited presentation involving USTs. Always consult with a professional in the field and also with your state and local government.
Note: The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) does not regulate residential underground oil tanks.