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Home Oil Tank Tips For Avoiding A Heating Oil Leak Or Spill And Protecting the Environment

Before the weather turns too frosty, here are several sensible, precautionary steps homeowners who heat with oil can take to head off potentially costly problems caused by fuel leaks and spills from their home oil tank. The typical cleanup cost from spills from residential fuel oil tanks range from $20,000 to $50,000.

FOR ALL HEATING OIL SYSTEMS

Every fall you should:

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Inspect for leaks. Look at the oil storage tank, fuel delivery line, valves, piping, and fittings.

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Have your oil company clean the furnace, and repair or replace damaged parts. A well-maintained furnace means lower fuel bills and cleaner emissions.

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Inspect the vent pipe to ensure that it is free of obstructions and that an audible signal (whistle) is on the vent. Oil company personnel listen for the whistle to help avoid overfills.

Year-round you should:

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Retain all oil delivery receipts. Keep them handy so you can track your oil demand. Unexpected increases may indicate a leak in your home oil tank.

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Ensure that your street number is clearly visible from the road to prevent oil company personnel from delivering fuel to the wrong address.

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Clearly mark the location of the oil storage tank's fill pipe to ensure that oil company personnel deliver your order to the right place.

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At least every 10 years, have the oil tank cleaned out. Over time, water (from condensation) and sludge can cause corrosion, resulting in leaks.

If you remove your home oil tank, also remove fill and vent pipes immediately to prevent a fuel delivery to a location without an attached oil storage tank. For your new home oil tank, consider purchasing one with double walls; they provide an extra layer of protection regardless of where the fuel oil tank is located.

FOR INDOOR ABOVE-GROUND TANKS

Inspect indoor above-ground oil storage tanks for signs of pitting and corrosion, particularly at the bottom of the tank. Residential oil tanks primarily rust from the inside out, so if signs of aging are present, replace the tank. Indoor home fuel oil tanks generally do not last more than about 30 years, and often their lifespan is much shorter.

Consider installing two inexpensive upgrades. Place a plastic heating oil tray or pan under the oil storage tank, and replace the fuel delivery line with one encased in a protective sleeve. The pan or tray will make it easier to keep the tank area clean and help identify and contain small leaks. Installing a sleeve, which covers the delivery line, protects it from physical damage and moisture.

FOR UNDERGROUND TANKS

Determine if the underground oil storage tank is made of steel (common) or fiberglass (rare). Most steel underground oil storage tanks will last approximately 10 to 20 years. If the tank is older than that or the age is unknown, replace it with an above ground fuel oil storage tank. Locate your new home oil tank under a shelter, or inside a basement or garage to prevent rust, corrosion, or damage.

FOR OUTDOOR ABOVE-GROUND TANKS

Ask an oil technician to inspect the stability of the above-ground oil storage tank. A full 275-gallon tank weighs more than 2,000 pounds. They have metal legs and should sit on a concrete pad. If the legs become loose or the pad cracks, the home fuel oil tank can fall over and rupture.

Replace an outdoor above-ground oil storage tank that has been uncovered for 10 years or longer. These tanks rust from the inside out, so cleaning or painting the outside does not usually prolong their life.

IN AN EMERGENCY

If you suspect an oil leak or spill, immediately contact your oil company and fire department for assistance. To report a leak or spill, call the fire Department immediately. Leaks or spills of 10 gallons or more must be reported to your state's DEP within two hours.

For more information or to view the entire article from the Massachusetts Dept of Environmental Protection go to http://www.mass.gov/dep/cleanup/hsfs.htm

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