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My tank experiences...

Posted by kudzu9 (My Page) on
Sat, Feb 21, 09 at 22:06

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.

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: My tank experiences...part 2

Sorry...I actually intended to post this as a response to another post...not a new item.

RE: My tank experiences...

When we bought our house 8 years ago (NJ) part of the deal was the owner removing the underground tank with an above ground. Well, there was a small leak. We have sandy soil and thankfully the leak went away from the house. (We were told the if the oil had leaked under the house the house would have to be moved). For months we had a tube thing in the ground for testing until it came up clean. She was glad her homeowners insurance company paid for it. Our insurance company specifically excludes it. We now a stack of papers about 8 inches tall with the results though. (For easy reading).

RE: My tank experiences...

The EPA now has strict standards that must be followed when abandoning an underground oil tank. If the company is to leave the tank in the ground and fill it as opposed to removing it, they actually, cut the top off and get in the tank to clean the inside by hand. They no longer leave ANY oil in the tank. Just make sure it is done by a qualified company.

RE: My tank experiences...

Holy cow, $450,000 for clean up? That's amazing.

RE: My tank experiences...

You are correct, and your local authorities may even have tighter standards. My view is that, if you are going to the trouble to unearth a tank and cut the top off and clean the inside, it makes a lot more sense to get rid of the whole, darn thing, and never have to deal with questions from a potential buyer about whether what was left in the ground was hiding any leaks. Typically, old oil tanks were single-walled and had a lifetime of 30-40 years before they developed holes. Mine looked good when they unearthed it. But when it was lifted out of the ground, oily water came gushing out of rusted-through holes in the bottom.

RE: My tank experiences...

>kudzu9-Sorry...I actually intended to post this as a response to another post...not a new item.

Thank you for posting this in a new thread!

Friends of ours bought a house for what they thought was an incredible deal until they discovered (after the purchase) that it had a tank on it buried next to a tributary. It was never mentioned in the disclosure and they were forced to have it removed.
Our friends explained how the owner was able to get away with not disclosing it. They said their realtor told them when a seller doesn't want to go to the expense of remediating it, they can take it off the market for x number of days so they are able to claim they were 'unaware' of it on the disclosure.

Another reason why its good to talk to the neighbors or visit your friendly county building/health dept whenever you are shopping for a house...

RE: My tank experiences...

Some people are just evil. Of course, if someone searched the prior listings for the house and saw that a previously disclosed tank had disappeared without documentation of removal, that would be grounds for a lawsuit...but you'd have to be paranoid enough to worry about such deviousness in the first place. I also think that any realtor who conspired in such a maneuver could lose his/her license.

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