Month: May 2011

What do I do If there may be an Underground Oil Tank for my home in Salem Oregon

Jim Allhiser President
OCHI# 916 CCB# 179533

Oil tanks were very common between the 1920s and 1960s for the relatively cheap heating oil for the oil furnace and for a while it was thought that sticking those tanks in the ground would be a great idea. If the home has exchanged hands a few times a hidden underground tank may be easily forgotten. The presence of a hidden underground oil tank is an issue that can rear its ugly head during a real estate transaction/home inspectionevery now and then. There are some things that you should know to help protect your client and yourself. A licensed professional tank locating service is the best way to ensure that no problem tanks exist under the surface however there are a few things that buyers, agents and home inspectors can look for that can be flags that indicate the need for further evaluation. Fill, or Vent Pipes or the tank itself: The tank is pretty self explanatory but the fill and vent pipes are usually a little more concealed and you must know what to look for. The fill lines will usually be a 2 or 3 inch pipe sticking up from the soil or out the side of the home. The vent lines will be smaller 1 inch pipeswith special vent caps like these photos.  These tubes are not terribly reliable because they are easy to cut off andcover up.Supply lines: Short of a metal detector and probes (professional tank finder tools) the supply lines are the best indicators of underground tanks. Supply pipes will be small(1/4″) copper lines. These lines, or the reminents of the lines will be located in the basement/garage, near the furance (or where the furnace once waslocated) or in the crawlspace. In general two lines indicate underground tanks. One is for the supply and the other is for the unburnt oil to return to the tank that is lower than the furnace. If only one line is present it may be an indication for an above ground tank. Unfortunantly these are general rules and underground tanks could have still used one line. The two lines to the left could be noted in the crawlspace. The crawlspace is the place where things are least likley to be “covered up.” The clipped lines to the left were noted in a home that had an oil tank that had been properly remidiated. Unfortunantly these lines were going to a completely different tank in on the oposite side of the home! If any of the above conditions can be noted it is time to do some more investigation. The internet and the DEQ is the first place tocheck.

  1. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) here in Oregon, has a program to help keep track of those oil tanks that have leaked. The site is: is a trick to using the search engine: You must just enter the address number only!!If you enter the street name it will not work.If excavation or redevelopment is planned you can find information on known and suspected Leaking Heating Oil Tanks (HOT) and if the site has received a closure letter for the decommissioning, assessment or certification of the HOT.If a HOT is present there may be contamination of the surrounding area and a cleanup may be required. Decommissioning, assessment, and cleanup must be performed by a DEQ licensed HOT Service Provider. For you agents, check out this publication: What agents should know about underground oil tanks. I posted this information a few months back and last week I found two little copper lines in the crawlspace under a home in Silverton. These lines are a great indicator of underground storage tanks so I raised a bright orange flag and alerted my client. The home had been owned by 4 different people in the last 20 years and the current owner had the home for the last 6 months. There was very little chance the current owner had a clue about oil tanks and whether proper decommissioning had occurred. I tried the search myself and by entering the address numbers but not the street name found documentation that the tank had leaked and had been removed and cleaned up in 2003! That is info that can now be linked to the home no matter who owns it.

If documentation of the tank cannot be located online the next step is to call the DEQ. The database is for only tanks that have leaked and if the tank was above ground or removed with no evidence of leakage it will not be in that database. The DEQ has records of tanks that have been decommissioned but it is not online. I have made a contact with:

Ingrid Gaffney

with DEQ HOT

503-229-6170   and found her to be very helpful!

If the above steps are taken and proper documentation cannot be located it is time to call a professional oil tank location/removal/remediation company.     I recommend two in the Salem area:

  1. Enviro-Probe

    (503) 304-9653   Karl VanZandt

  1. Xavier Environmental

                                                     (503) 236-3796 office

These are the proper steps to take if an underground tank is suspected. The responsibility of proper remediation fall on the current owner and the cleanup of leaking underground tanks can easily exceed $10,000. Pay attention and don’t be surprised with that expense. I welcome calls or emails if additional information is desired.

Jim Allhiser President





Blog: OCHI# 916 CCB# 179533