Posted by & filed under Buying, For Sale or Rent, Selling.

digging it outRemoving an underground oil tank is something that a lot of you will be involved in.  That’s because so many homes were heated with oil until the last quarter of the 20th century.

A Brief Historical Review

Oil was a primary fuel to heat your home from the 1930’s through the 1960’s.  A war between the Arab States and Israel changed this.

The Mideast oil producing countries embargoed oil to the US  in 1973.  They were retaliating against US support of Israel during the 1973 Arab-Israeli War.  Oil prices went through the roof.  They rose fourfold in only 3 months. abandoned underground oil tank

The 1978 Iranian Revolution caused another shock to the world oil supply in addition.  Workers went on strike and oil fields were set on fire.  As a result, supplies plunged and prices skyrocketed.

Homeowners, in response, switched over to gas where pricing was regulated and much cheaper.  Back then no one thought about taking out the underground oil tank.  Later on in the late1980’s and 1990’s we began to understand the need to properly abandon those tanks.  This is why we still find abandoned underground oil tanks.

vacuuming Tank Sweeps & Home Insurance

Home buyers must do a tank sweep inspection today.  Tank sweeps are done to find unknown abandoned underground oil tanks.  Read my blog article on this to learn all about it.  You can’t buy a house without a tank sweep because you won’t be able to get home insurance.  Insurance companies require verification that no abandoned underground tank exists.

Additionally there’s a liability issue.  Home buyers will not assume the potential liability for a leaking oil tank.  This why when they find an abandoned underground tank, they’ll only buy the house if the seller removes it.  What I can tell you is that it’s quite rare to find a problem.  I’ve never found more than 1 issue with all the homes I’ve sold over the years.  This was in Glen Rock.  The  tank had a pinhole opening near the top of the tank so no problem.

Removing An Underground Oil Tank

I had a client who removed a tank with Lombardo Environmental last week.  Here’s what happens.  You can follow along with the pictures I have here for you. 

  1. A small backhoe digs out the ground to the top of the tank
  2. Workmen shovel out the top and sides of the tank
  3. Using a steel saw, the top is cut open
  4. There’s always sludge inside – this is now vacuumed into a special tank truck
  5. Next the tank is pulled out of the ground by the backhoe
  6. A mallet is used to bang off all the sediment on the tank so it can be inspected
  7. Everyone waits for the oil tank inspector to come
  8. Once the inspector says everything is OK, the tank is removed, the hole filled up.

IF there’s a problem, then this is reported to both the County and New Jersey environmental departments.  They’ll determine what further action is needed to clean up the site.  In this case, both the tank and grounds were fine.

How long does this take?  Nearly all day.  I was there from 9:30 am until about 1 pm when I left.  It was 39 degrees and raining.  Once I knew that everything was fine from Lombardo, I called my homeowner to tell them, went home and got into a hot shower!

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