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Heating Oil Spill & Smell

Posted by jemcdonald (My Page) on
Mon, Dec 10, 12 at 20:22

So here is my issue. Currently under contract to purchase a home which is owned by a trust, home is currently vacant. Home was poorly secured and someone entered, stole heating oil, and spilled alot on the floor.

Oil was spilled on a tile vinyl basement floor on concrete. It was cleaned up by an oil company but the home has remained closed for 2 months during the close process and the smell still remains and is very strong.

Since it is trust owned seller wont remediate. Should i continue with purchase? Is it possible to get rid of the oil smell? Anyone have similar issues?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Heating Oil Spill & Smell

I would not buy the home until the oil is satisfactorily cleaned up. Nobody else is going to buy it either in that condition. Let some pros remiediate this!


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RE: Heating Oil Spill & Smell

You need a professional remediation company -- the same type that gets rid of asbestos. If the spill is big enough (and it needn't be very big), the EPA strictly regulates how it gets cleaned.

If you're under contract, it strikes me that the seller has a legal obligation to deliver the house as promised in condition promised, no? (But ask an actual real estate lawyer what your options are!)

I spilled kerosene on our concrete basement floor and was able to get virtually all the smell up by sprinkling cat litter liberally on it (a non-clay type). Let sit for a few days, sweep into trash, then repeat with pure baking soda. Get those huge boxes and pour it an inch thick over the spill area. Vacuum the soda after a few days. I've also heard that grain alcohol will help eliminate the odor.

But in your case, honestly, it really should be the seller to arrange this because they so poorly secured the place. Around here, the seller is legally required to carry homeowner's insurance on the property until the title is transferred (for just such rare occasions!) That should cover the remediation.


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RE: Heating Oil Spill & Smell

Did the oil soak into the vinyl floor or the concrete? Was the vinyl flooring removed?

When you say they cleaned it up, what exactly did they do?

If the source is basically gone but the odor still lingers, that should be easier to clean up, perhaps w/o professional help. The cat litter idea is a good one, or activated charcoal will be even better. Perhaps they could bring in some plug-in active air filters, either with carbon filters or the ionic type that destroys the contaminants.

If the stuff soaked into the vinyl or the concrete below, it may not come out for a LONG time. You may have to remove the vinyl and replace it. It's hard to tell without seeing it.

Depending on your state, the EPA may not be involved at all and these things may be handled at the state level. Regardless, it may not even be a regulated release. If the oil hasn't left the house, it has not actually been released to soil or groundwater, so the regulators may have no interest whatsoever.

That does not mean the stuff is not a health hazard, and I would insist that the sellers take care of this problem before buying. There should be something in the contract about conditions changing at the property prior to purchase.

As far as hiring an env. remediation company, that doesn't sound necessary for a minor indoor spill. I would think a commercial cleaning company like Servicemaster that takes care of small disasters like this would be a good place to start if you can convince the sellers to take care of it. Those guys know how to deal with different types of odor causing chemicals.


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RE: Heating Oil Spill & Smell

Thanks for input. Issue with the seller is that the property is owned by a trust and is current insolvent. The only reason the bank hasnt foreclosed is the existence of our sales contract. With a couple weeks until close any sort of delay to try and negotiate a cleanup could lead to a foreclosure. Thus I am trying to figure out if this is something I could tackle and remediate.

The oil was less than 10 gallons and was cleaned up by the oil company with a type of powder agent. It did soak into the vinyl tiles and I plan on removing those and the drywall in the area (we are remodeling whole house). The issue that was really concerning was the overwhelming smell that blew through the entire house. I hope if i remove the source or contain it to the small area i could find something to rid the rest of the house of the odor.


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RE: Heating Oil Spill & Smell

Here's the thing, if the spill isn't properly cleaned up and CERTIFIED, you may have problems when you go to sell. Please contact your state EPA, and find out what the regulations are on this kind of situation.

We bought a house that had an outside oil tank removed years ago. We had to require testing and a certification from the sellers that the ground was clean. And we've been told to guard that paper with our lives because we WILL NOT be able to sell without it.

Do not buy with the understanding that it's okay, and you'll do the work--you could find down the road that you've made an extremely expensive mistake.

You are, however, going to have to research the rules, regs and laws for YOUR state and community--and then hope that they don't change over the years to come. Good luck.

And don't forget--the seller's finances/foreclosure issues are NOT your responsibility--your safety and future financial solvency are the only things you should be concerned about at this point. Don't make exceptions or concessions when those things could cost you hundreds of thousands of $$$ down the road.


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RE: Heating Oil Spill & Smell

Azzalea, that makes sense in your case if there is an underground tank. However, there are some facts here that should put jem more at ease. 10 gals of oil INSIDE the basement is generally not considered a release to the environment. If the tank is inside the basement, it is not even considered an underground tank, so is less likely to be regulated. In my state neither the tank or the indoor spill is regulated (YMMV, so it doesn't hurt to check, that's good advice). Finally, such a spill would never cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to clean up.

If the state has no requirements for cleanup oversight and approval in this case, then it's between you and the seller as to who does the work and who pays for it and how, and that's it.

I am reasonably confident that the odor will dissipate with removal of the source and airing out the house and/or using adsorbents like activated charcoal.


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RE: Heating Oil Spill & Smell

Good advice around. The property actually did have an underground tank which the seller had removed and certified by the DEP & town fire marshall. We also had an environmental cleanup company come in to give us their input. They echoed what toxcrusadr said and seemed to think the cleanup would require removing the tiles & drywall in the area and the odor would eventually dissapate once the property was properly ventilated. based on size of spill & location there werent any significant enviornmental implications.


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RE: Heating Oil Spill & Smell

Glad to hear it, that's good news! So, can we assume a move is in your future? :-D


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RE: Heating Oil Spill & Smell

Closed on home, working on the smell now! coffee grounds, white vinegar, and ventalation is working well on residual odors. Still working on source though.


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