15 Commonly Asked Questions About Heating Oil Tank Removal and Replacement in Suffolk County

Top 15 FAQs About Underground and Aboveground Heating Oil Tanks in Suffolk County NY

The majority of home heating oil tanks are not State-regulated, as most are not more than 1,100 in capacity. However, some counties do have regulations on smaller heating oil tanks. If you live in a particular county – Nassau or Suffolk County– it’s important you learn the regulations that apply to the installation and removal of heating oil tanks.

In the case your heating oil tank is not regulated, you know that a leak could be bad – bad for your wallet and bad for the environment. If an underground pipe or tank is found to be leaking, you could have a $20,000 or more cleanup fee. Most homeowners insurance policies have a “pollution exclusion” clause, which means you could be the only footing the bill.

Suffolk County Laws and Regulations for Oil Tanks

If a tank is leaking, more work is needed to figure out how bad the problem is and how much cleanup it will take to repair the issue. If it’s been determined there’s been contamination, you should call the Spills Hotline at 1-800-457-7362.

A surefire way to avoid the expense that comes from a leaking tank is to replace the underground tank or have an aboveground tank installed in your storage shed, garage or basement. What are some of the questions people have about their heating oil tanks?

Where Does A Tank Need To Be Registered?

Any storage facility that has hazardous or dangerous materials must be recorded with the Department of Health Services, which can be done with the submission of the Toxic Liquid Storage Registration Form. This form is not necessary for the following:

• Locations with less than 2,000 pounds of bulk solid material.
• Locations with less than 250 gallons in portable containers.
• Tanks with less than 1,100 gallons.

When Should Residents Apply For A Tank Installation Application

Before you install a tank, you must fill out and turn in the Application for Permit to Construct. The package will need to have both the Toxic or Hazardous Material registration and permit forms as well as engineering plans. However, some storage facilities do not need to apply for a Permit to Construct:

• Inside heating oil tanks are not located within the Water Supply Sensitive Areas or Groundwater Management Zones.
• 1,100-gallon heating oil tanks are not located within the Water Supply Sensitive Areas or Groundwater Management Zones.
• Heating oil tanks are located inside a home, are aboveground and not bigger than 1,100 gallons or is underground but no more than 1,100 gallons.
• Liquid storage of portable containers is no more than 250 gallons
• Bulk storage of solids on a site is no more than 2,000 pounds.

What Materials Are Not Permitted To Be Stored?

In order to learn what the limits are on the storage of hazardous or lethal material stored in Water Supply Sensitive Areas or Groundwater Management Zones, reach out to your local sanitary department or county official to find out.

Is Testing Necessary On Residential Oil Tanks?

The majority of underground tanks were replaced with thicker, non-corroding walls, which does not need constant testing. If you have not replaced your underground tanks, then yes, testing is necessary.

County officials do want testing done on tanks after 10 years of their installation and then every five years after that. If a tank was installed in 1980, then it needs to be tested in 1990, again in 1995 and then in 2000. This testing is only applied to tanks that are roughly or bigger than 1,100 gallons. No testing is necessary on smaller or aboveground storage tanks.

What Kinds Of Heating Oil Tanks Are Permitted?

Underground tanks need to be made of protected steel or fiberglass and resistant to corroding. They also need to be double walled. Residential tanks need a single wall. The kind of tank needed for aboveground use will vary based on the application.

Do You Need To Remove Your Underground (inground or buried) Tanks?

The majority of underground tanks, including unpermitted and steel tanks with dangerous materials, were removed in 1990. The only time a fuel tank needs to be removed is when it’s leaking. Any fuel tank that’s 1,100 gallons or bigger must be tested every five years.

Should You Consider Replacing Your Underground Oil Tank?

Like any technology or equipment, tanks have a shelf life and should be either repaired or replaced. A significant number of home heating oil tanks buried underground were not designed for burial, causing them to rust and leak. Larger tanks that were designed for burial can still leak if there is no rust protection.

If there is a sharp rise in your home heating oil use, it could be the tank. However, that’s not always the best indicator. There are cases where water got into the tank, or the leak occurs only with a full tank. These are problems a homeowner wouldn’t readily notice.

A tank that’s about 10 to 15 years old may not be leaking, but the older it gets, the higher the chance for there to be a leak. Slow, minute leaks can be serious to your family’s health as well as those in your community and the environment. This is especially true if the problem has been ongoing for some time.

Tanks that leak come with a hefty cleanup price tag.

Therefore, it would be in your best interest to choose a tank that’s got a double-walled installed or a basement tank. It’s also important to replace the piping when you install a new underground tank. Be sure to hire a reputable equipment dealer to install your tank with vents, overfill alarms, etc.

What’s The Cost To Extract An Underground Tank?

In the late 1990s, removal contractors were charging up to $2,500 to remove underground tanks. The actual price was dependent on the tank’s size, the condition it was in and how easy they could reach it. The price did not include the cost of a replacement tank, testing and sampling, cleanup work in the event of a leak and landscaping.

It’s always a good idea to get quotes. Reach out to your oil company and attain estimates from various contractors. After an assessment of your home – tank location and potential issues – you’ll be given an estimate. Make sure to you compare their services and ask for references. Like any home improvement job, you want a written cost estimate and contract that lays out the services that will be performed before any work starts.

Can Your Oil Tank Be Tested Before It’s Dug Up?

Absolutely! Test the tank and its piping to ensure how tight they are. However, it may be less expensive just to remove the tank out of the ground. You also can’t rely on these tests, as you never know what will happen tomorrow, two months from now or even two years from now. IF you have a steel tank, removing the tank will be less expensive in the long run.

A commercial tank tester is a more accurate way in which to find leaks. They will do a gross check by looking for a drop in the tank’s oil level when the oil isn’t being used.

Can You Remove The Oil From The Tank and Leave It Buried?

You can do this, but you need to take some preventative measures.

The State Legislature passed a law in 1996 that required all underground and aboveground heating oil tanks to be emptied and purged of vapors. If a tank is removed, the fill line and vent line must also be removed. The fill line can also be capped by concrete. If the tank isn’t removed, the vent line must stay open and the fill line removed or capped.

If the tank has been abandoned correctly, the local government can approve the abandonment.

However, it would be best if you remove the tank. This will allow you to look for soil contamination sights and avoid potential sinkholes from occurring should the tank collapse.

Also, if you decide to sell your home, the buyer may ask that the tank is removed or get environmental testing done. This could make it more expensive in the long run than if you had initially removed it.

How Can You Know If Your Oil Tank Leaked?

There are several tell-tale signs of a leaking tank – damage to the pipe or tank, stained soil or soil that gives off powerful oil smells, a sheen on groundwater or environmental test results. If contamination is present, nearby wells and water sources need to be sampled and tested to determine if they’ve been affected.

When looking for a contractor, it’s good to find out if they can do an environmental assessment.

What Should You Do If A Contamination Is Discovered?

The first thing you don’t want to do is panic. It could be a minor issue and easy to fix. Make sure to take immediate action to clean it up. If you deal with the problem now, the cost won’t be as high.

Make sure to reach out to your local DEC regional office for help with the problem.

How Do You Handle Problematic Home Sellers Who Won’t Deal With Their Heating Oil Tank?

The current homeowner may have made some bad choices when it came to their tank, but you could use a construction code in the state that requires the homeowner to take action on the abandoned tank such as removing it from the land.

Can You File A Homeowners Insurance Claim If Your Tank Has Leaked?

The moment you see evidence a leak occurred, you need to reach out to your homeowner’s insurance company. The majority of policies demand that you promptly notify them of the issue. Each policy differs in how the problem is covered – some provide contamination cleanup help while some help with leaking underground storage tanks and so provide no help at all.

Why Is Soil Testing Needed Around The Oil Tank?

If a spill happens while refilling a tank or if it’s been found to be leaking, the oil will get into the soil. An independent laboratory will get an analysis of the area to determine if there is any presence of oil around the storage tank. Cleaning up contaminated soil is a pricey undertaking.