Clues to Buried Fuel Oil Tanks

If you are buying a Vancouver house built prior to 1970, be aware there is a high probability of a buried oil tank. An underground oil tank could affect your insurance and mortgage. The associated environmental impact could cost you up to a hundred thousand dollars for remediation.

Before natural gas became available, houses in Vancouver were heated with the oil-burning furnace. These furnaces were fed by oil storage tanks which filled periodically by tanker trucks. The oil tanks were either stored aboveground in the basement or backyard of the house, or buried underground. These oil tanks became abandoned when houses converted to gas furnaces in the ’60s. Aboveground tanks were often removed as they took up a large amount of space. However, underground oil tanks were not often properly removed. In some cases, they were not completely drained of oil. These buried galvanized steel tanks eventually rust and leak. The leaked oil could contaminate soil and water in the surrounding areas. It also poses a fire and explosion hazard. This kind of environmental hazard could cost up to $100,000 to clean up. The longer the tank stays in the ground, the worse the problem gets.

A metal pipe connecting underground and the house could be one of the indicators of a buried oil tank.

Buried oil tank creates a huge liability for the homeowner and you, the buyer. In Vancouver, all heating oil storage tanks that haven’t been used for two years and any contaminated soil must be removed immediately and replaced with clean soil. A buried oil tank is important to know about when buying a house, we recommend having an oil tank inspection for houses built before 1970. It is important to obtain documentation warranting that no tank has been detected before subject removal.

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Key image source: City of Victoria, Canada