An oil tank beside a house isn’t the most decorative item nor does it enhance the look of the house. At one time they used to find it better and easier to bury the large tank in the ground hiding it from view and allowing for a larger tank to fuel your house. Now, of course, we realize that it could and has caused all kinds of environmental issues if they get a leak in them spilling the old oil into the soil and water sources. Most of the time you and I will never know that there was or is a tank in the ground at your home but there may be a few ways we can investigate and then call in the professionals to scan the ground.
I always look for evidence as the buried oil tanks needed a few things to connect, fill and vent them so we need to look for these clues. The location in town and the age of the house is a good one. If you are buying in an area known for underground tanks there is a larger chance you may have one as well. The hardest one to find is the fill cap. This was a round screw-on cap that will be above the tank. Normally this gets buried over time and grass growing overtop but if you are lucky you might find one.
Next is an air vent. This is normally a 2-inch metal pipe that released air from the tank allowing it to fill and empty without burping or gurgling. It’s the same concept as putting a hole in the apple juice container or shotgunning a beer. The pipe would be normally be attached to the house with a few straps and sometimes you would see just the holes for the straps after it has been removed.
The last one I have found multiple times is the lines into the house to the furnace. If the furnace has been replaced most of the time they cut the lines off but leave them in the foundation just cut at the wall. Keep a lookout for that and follow the lines out if you can.
Underground tanks can cause huge financial costs and I have seen expenses of as little as $8k and up to $150k just in our local market. Out of our local market, I have heard of double and even triple that number. When the tank is getting removed the larger the tank normally the stronger the walls are and the less likely the tank was to have leaked so don’t worry too much about the size of the hole afterward when you see it. The biggest thing is the soil sample after the tank is out and the clean bill of health for the soil. I’ve never seen it as well but I have heard of there being more than one tank buried so if we have any question that there might be a tank we need to have the property scanned by the professionals to make sure before we move forward with the purchase. The most interesting buried oil tank I did find because the feeder lines had a gas line over the top of the oil tank. I’m not sure if they saw the oil tank as it was only about 6 inches above the top of the tank but it sure made for a more difficult removal.
A scan is the only way to ensure a there is no tank and for the $550-800 it might cost you to have one done its well worth it if removal at the least is $8000. Again, there is a solution to everything but If we find a buried oil tank or evidence there might be one, stop, and let us come up with a game plan on how to move forward or away.
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