Remove underground tank or leave it?

pjcampoFebruary 19, 2009

Sorry if this is in the wrong place, but this does relate to us selling the house.

We just pulled out a tree in our front yard and before we replace it are considering removing an old 550 gallon oil tank that is in the yard. The cost, after state funds is $800 out of pocket.

The tank was "abandoned", but we have no paperwork for it, other than a permit (no post-inspection paperwork, which should be standard). I personally believe there is no issue with the tank, as I spoke to the person who "probably" did the job (could not remember exactly 10 years ago and doesn't have paperwork for it either) and assured me they never pulled a permit for a job that wasn't done (since they collect half payment in advance).

The issue for me is that these underground oil tanks seem to be a hot issue here in Northern NJ. When we go to sell, I have no actual evidence that the tank was closed according to regulations. I personally do not care, BECAUSE I do not think it is leaking and do believe it was done properly but that is not really going to help me when we sell the house. Once we put a tree back in it will really make the process more complicated.

Does anyone really care about these USTs? We are on natural gas now. The other issue is the can of worms we open, IF, it was leaking. Again it is not my belief, but a small possibility.

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barbag

I would absolutely remove the tank! For $800. it sounds like a bargain. I no longer live in NJ but I used to and have bought and sold there. I would NEVER buy a house with an underground storage tank. The possibility of problems and cost of resolving them are huge. You may find that now but it won't be any easier to do it in the future when you want to sell.

Barb

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 10:49AM
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mlo1

I agree...for $800 it is no brainer. Environmental regs will continue to become more invasive and issues like this at time of sale are easy targets.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 11:04AM
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xamsx

Agreed. For $800 remove the tank.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 11:24AM
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setancre

Oddly enough I was just reading through a really lengthy discussion about underground oil tanks on another website. Highly recommend you read through the linked thread (if you haven't already). It is NJ specific.

Here is a link that might be useful: NJ underground oil tank discussion

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 12:42PM
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logic

In NJ, allÂ.or just about allÂ.buyerÂs attorneys build into the contract that if a UST exists (active or passive) the soil and tank must be tested for leaks.

In addition, they will ask for all of the documentation that proves the tank was decommissioned properly. That said, since you donÂt have such paperwork, you will probably have to go through doing whatever it takes to obtain itÂÂso you might as well just pull the tank out now for the $800.00.

Realize that just because it has not leaked does not mean that it wonÂtÂ.especially since there is no way to know if there is any oil left in the tankÂand this is a hot button topic because the clean up of oil leaks can run into the thousandsÂsometimes hundreds of thousands if the oil has traveled far.

Pull the tankÂ..plant the treeÂ.and be done with it.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 3:14PM
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triciae

As a lender who has foreclosed on hundreds of both residential & commercial properties with USTs I highly recommend removing the tank now. Dealing with both the State & EPA can be a real nightmare & cost considerably more than $800 for remediation. Since you do not have documentation you've got a target on your back for a buyer's attorney. Don't potentially lose a sale in this market over $800.

Best of luck for a quite sale...

/tricia

    Bookmark   February 19, 2009 at 4:59PM
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pjcampo

It's funny, this is pretty much how I feel (all of the above), but my family members do not feel the same.

We are going to go ahead and do it. I figure $800, we do it now, while it is a stress free job. Imagine tearing up the front landscaping while you are trying to sell a house.

We actually just bought the house last year, and my attorney did not mention anything about having soil testing done and didn't seem to care that we didn't have post-job inspection work from the town (I didn't know better at the time).

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 7:47AM
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heimert

It's a terrible way to spend $800, I agree, in that you're just digging a hole in the ground. Much nicer to have a new TV or whatever.

But fact of it is $800 is a bargain and cheap insurance against any future problems--USTs can become expensive nightmares. Bite the bullet now so you never have to worry about it at all.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2009 at 10:12AM
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kudzu9

Recently there was a post in this forum about buying a house with potential issues like asbestos, lead, and an underground tank. Here is my reply to the tank part.

I switched over from oil to gas heat many years ago, and had the oil tank pumped out and left in the ground. Ten years later, when I decided to remodel and expand the house, the old tank was in the way of the new foundation, so I had to have it removed. When it came out of the ground, it had holes in it and was leaking oil. Fortunately, it was in clay and, after $500 of soil testing, it was certified that the oil had not migrated. I asked the tank removal company about why it still had oil in it, since I had had it pumped out. They said that the oil deliverers never fully pump tanks out because they don't want any of the gunk at the bottom of the tank, and usually leave about 50 gallons in the "empty" tank! If I had any contamination, it would have cost big bucks, and would have delayed my remodel for months, or killed it. Some people have "tank" insurance, which is not always available and is usually only for people with a current oil delivery account.

I have a friend who noticed a little seepage by his oil tank, and, when it was checked out, it was determined that he had an active leak that needed to be fixed. Bottom line: he had to move out of his house for 4 months while the $450,000 cleanup took place. He was lucky: after deliberating for a couple of months, his homeowners insurance company agreed to pay for it. And as for the comment that there is EPA money available to deal with residential oil tanks, that's simply not true. It may be that some state ecology departments may help in some way, but I wouldn't count on it. If you have a leak, you're probably in deep doodoo.

My advice: never buy a house with a "decommissioned" underground oil tank unless the seller can document that it meets local decommissioning standards. I would even suggest making a purchase offer contingent on removal of the tank by the seller and remediation of any contamination at his expense.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2009 at 10:08PM
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ron6519

I don't understand this confusion about decommissioned oil tanks. If it's been taken out of service the correct way, there's no fill opening. There's no vent pipe. The tank has been pumped out, cut open and the sludge cleaned out. It's then been filled with sand. Or it's been filled with a nitrogen foam. All of these things are easily confirmed.
The plumbing permit to convert to gas should include this decommissioning, so the plumber should have a record of the company he hired to do the job. The DEP should also have a record as they are notified about these abandonments and have the option of being there when it's done to inspect.
That's the way it was done when we converted to gas in 1999. I did get the paperwork at the time.
Ron

    Bookmark   March 18, 2009 at 8:02AM
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