Jim Allhiser President 503-508-4321 Web: www.SalemOregonHomeInspections.com Email: Jallhiser@PerfectionInspectionInc.com Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/PerfectionInspectionInc Blog: https://salemoregonhomeinspector.com/ 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 inspection every 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 pipes with special vent caps like these photos. These tubes are not terribly reliable because they are easy to cut off and cover 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 remnants of the lines will be located in the basement/garage, near the furnace (or where the furnace once was located) 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. Unfortunately 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 likely to be “covered up.” The clipped lines to the left were noted in a home that had an oil tank that had been properly remediated. Unfortunately these lines were going to a completely different tank in on the opposite 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 to check.
- 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: http://www.deq.state.or.us/lq/tanks/lust/LustPublicLookup.asp There 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. http://www.deq.state.or.us/lq/pubs/factsheets/tanks/hot/BuyingSellingHomeHOT.pdf 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 an underground storage tank 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 the oil tank 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 and not leaked in a PDF document here: http://www.oregon.gov/deq/FilterDocs/HOTCleanDec.xlsx.
If all of that fails, you can contact DEQ directly. I have made a contact with: DEQ HOT (Heating Oil Tank program)
503-229-6170 and found them to be very helpful!
If the above steps are taken and proper documentation still cannot be located, it is time to call a professional oil tank location/removal/remediation company. I recommend two in the Salem area:
(503) 304-9653 Karl VanZandt
- Xavier Environmental
(503) 236-3796 office http://www.xavierenvironmental.com/
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: https://salemoregonhomeinspector.com/ OCHI# 916 CCB# 179533
Great informative piece as underground oil tanks is a relevant and real issue today in home inspection in Oregon. Thanks for sharing your expertise and knowledge.
Hey! Thanks for the comment Levon. It was good to meet you the other day. I hope you had a great 4th!
You can also contact Northwest Soil & Tanks they are out of Oregon City but work all over the state. They work closely with enviro-probe. Jason Trammel 971 804-7832
No one brought this up when we were buying our home. It just showed up on a list of things prospective buyers wanted to check on the house. I was floored. It seems like there should be some sort of assistance to help the unexpected homeowner in these situations. I have been racking my brain to try and remember if the inspector said anything about little pipes here or there. We bought the house in foreclosure in 2008. Lots of houses were in foreclosure and didn’t come with much history. Banks don’t have to divulge squat. It’s bad enough people expect a 100 year old house to be like a 10 year old house, now there is a possible hidden oil tank lurking somewhere? Have to wonder how many could be in our neighborhood.