2010-10-15 / Community

DEC: Check Fuel Tanks Before Temperatures Drop

Before receiving the first shipment of fuel oil for the upcoming heating season, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis is encouraging homeowners to thoroughly check their heating fuel oil storage tanks to help prevent leaks and spills.

More than two million homes in New York are heated by fuel oil. Each year, DEC’s Spills Hotline fields hundreds of calls associated with residential fuel oil spills. These spills can contaminate basements, groundwater, wells and soils, and damage basement contents. Often, they trigger expensive cleanups that might not be covered by homeowner insurance policies.

“Proper maintenance and routine checks of a fuel oil tank are easy steps that will not only help protect personal property, but also prevent spills and leaks that harm the environment,” Grannis said. “The onset of fall is the perfect time to find out if there are any issues that need addressing before problems arise.”

Some of the most common causes of home fuel oil spills are failing storage tanks, faulty fuel lines and connections, collapsing tank legs and supports, and overflows during delivery. An annual inspection of fuel oil storage tanks can prevent impacts to human health and the environment from leaks and spills.

Common Signs of Above-ground or Basement Heating Fuel Oil Storage Tank Items Needing Repair:
• Bent, rusty, or wobbly tank legs or
tank located on an unstable foundation.

• Signs of rust, weeps, wet spots, or
excessive dents on the tank’s surface.
• Drips or any signs of leaks around
the oil filter or valves.
• Fuel oil lines not covered in a protective
casing – even if under concrete.
• Old fuel fill lines no longer connected
to a tank in use.
• Overhanging eaves where snow and
ice could fall onto the tank.
• Stains on ground or strong oil odor
around the tank location.
• Browning, dying or loss of vegetation
around the tank location.
• Silent overfill whistle while tank is
being filled – ask fuel delivery
person.
• Clogged or restricted tank vent due
to snow, ice or insect nests.
• Signs of spills around fill pipe or vent
pipe.

• Improperly sized vent pipes – ask
fuel delivery person.
• Cracked, stuck or frozen fuel level
gauge or signs of fuel around a
gauge.

Common Signs of Underground Heating Fuel Oil Storage Tank Items Needing Repair:


• Water in the tank – ask fuel delivery
person to check.
• Old fuel fill lines no longer connected
to a tank in use.
• Oil or oil sheen in the basement
sump or French drain.
• Silent overfill whistle while tank
is being filled – ask fuel delivery person.

• Clogged or restricted tank vent due
to snow, ice or insect nests.
• Signs of spills around fill pipe or vent
pipe.
• Well water has strange tastes or
smells.
• Complaints from neighbors of fuel oil
smells.
• Using more than the normal amount
of fuel.

Pictures of some of these oil tank issues are posted on DEC’s website at ftp://ftp.dec.ny.gov/dpae/press/ OilTanks/. If these or other items of concern are observed, homeowners should contact their fuel oil service provider. Report any actual spill or leak of fuel oil to the DEC Spills Hotline: 1-800-457-7362. For more information, see http://www.dec.ny. gov/chemical/32263.html.

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