Buying a House with a Decommissioned Oil Tank. OK or Not OK?
Buying a house with a decommissioned oil tank may wind up costing you. There are not many homes on the market these days with a decommissioned oil tank. However, if you run across one, be aware that oil cleanup costs can be high. There is a risk of soil and water contamination, along with the health risks and cleanup costs that go with it.
Should I Buy A House With an Underground Oil Tank?
First, you should know how to spot a house that may have an oil tank buried on the property. Here are a few telltale signs:
– There may be both an oil tank valve or breather apparatus/tube and meter for gas outside. If the tank has been decommissioned properly, the fill valve and breather tube would have already been cut. So, outside the home, you should see nothing that indicates there is an oil tank present.
– On the interior of the home, check the furnace for copper tubing or lines. These will appear to have pinched ends. If the copper cabling is still in place, it is a sign the home was heated using oil in the past. Therefore, there may be an undiscovered oil tank buried on the property.
You can have your suspicions confirmed by hiring an expert. Environmental professionals are trained to look for tanks and can use technology, such as an RF locator, radar or metal detector, to find them.
N.J. Underground Oil Tank Law
If you find your home does indeed have a decommissioned underground oil tank that is leaking, New Jersey state law requires that you file a report with the state Department of Environmental Protection. Call the action line at (877) 927-6337, and you will be provided with an informational packet that fully describes your duties and responsibilities as the homeowner, in addition to the role played by the DEP.
You will be told to contact a state-qualified contractor who will direct the cleanup efforts. This will involve removing contaminated soil, as well as the tank. The minimum requirements are available on the DEP’s website, www.nj.gov/dep/srp/regs and are listed under Technical Requirements for Site Remediation.
Underground Oil Tank Filled With Sand
If you find an oil tank filled with sand on your property, it has not been properly decommissioned and poses a risk. These tanks were likely closed without permission from the state and without samples of soil to document that it is a clean closure. A tank filled with sand is not in compliance and does not end your liability if you are the property owner.
If the tank is beneath your home’s foundation, the sand does not give adequate support for the foundation and it will corrode over the years. The average lifespan of a steel oil tank is 15 to 20 years. Most sand-filled tanks have been in place for more than five decades and state agencies find that they leak more than 85 percent of the time. The NJDEP will not be concerned about what the tank is filled with. Instead, it is concerned with the amount and type of leakage that has happened over the course of time and the level of soil contamination it has caused.
How To Find Out if An Oil Tank Has Been Decommissioned
Proper removal with proven assessment is the one and only situation that a homebuyer should accept. Anything less and you would be held liable for the expenses incurred for removing an improperly decommissioned oil tank from the property. The seller should provide the buyer with a state-certified document detailing the tank’s removal in all cases.
If you are concerned there may be a decommissioned oil tank on your property or property you plan to purchase contact the environmental specialists, All American Environmental. We are located in Lake Hopatcong, NJ and service the entire northern NJ area. Let us take your stresses away and help you from the beginning to the end.