Universal symbols are everywhere these days. Traffic signs especially have pictures and symbols instead of words so that any person, know matter what language they speak, can understand what is expected of them. There are universal symbols that all good home inspectors should recognize as well. Mushrooms growing out of your siding, large cracks in foundations and carpenter ants streaming out of a sill-plate are all things that any home inspector should recognize as a universal symbol of problems.
Another important universal symbol for home inspectors recognize in this area are two small copper lines, going into the ground in garages or crawl spaces. These copper lines, can be indicative of underground oil tanks. These tanks, if not remediated properly can be a significant cost and an environmental hazard to a home-owner/home-buyer.
The Department of Environmental Quality in Oregon does maintain a database of remediated oil tanks. As I wrote previously, the database is relatively new and unless the tank has been remediating recently, there would not be record of the tank. This means that it is still important for home inspectors to keep their eyes out for the universal symbols and to let the buyers, agents and sellers that are involved in the transaction know about this potential environmental issue.