What Do You Do if an Oil Tank Is Buried in Your Yard?

June 8, 2022 | Christina M. Bezas | Commercial Litigation

It is not uncommon for Lloyd Harbor residents to have old steel heating oil tanks buried in their yards. Although these underground tanks continue to successfully heat our homes, they do not last forever. They are not protected from corrosion and, as a result, can pose an expensive and unexpected risk to unsuspecting homeowners and even prospective homebuyers. Depending on the composition of the oil tanks, they have a limited life expectancy and eventually need to be replaced.

It is important for prospective homebuyers to cautiously consider properties with buried oil tanks. Many insurance companies are unwilling to issue a homeowner’s policy for properties containing underground oil tanks. Likewise, a homeowner interested in selling their property with an underground oil tank may be faced with other obstacles, including wary homebuyers.

As underground oil tanks age, the likelihood that they will leak oil increases. Even relatively small leaks that slowly discharge oil into the surrounding soil can cause significant environmental hazards, such as groundwater contamination and soil pollution. Unfortunately, when it comes to underground oil tanks, homeowners often do not realize that their tanks are leaking until it is too late and the damage has been done.

Who is responsible for the cleanup? Generally, homeowners will be liable for the costly cleanup resulting from an oil tank leak. In fact, homeowners may be responsible for the cleanup regardless of whether their actions caused the leak. Depending on the location and extent of the oil spill, cleaning or remediating contaminated property can carry a hefty, unexpected price tag for many homeowners. The cost of cleaning or remediation can depend on numerous factors such as how much oil leaked, whether the oil spill contaminated groundwater, or whether it contaminated a neighbor’s property. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the cost of cleaning an oil spill from an underground oil tank could reach tens of thousands of dollars.

If you have an underground heating oil tank or are considering purchasing a property with one, it is wise to consider removing the oil tank or responsibly abandoning or sealing it. Homeowners considering abandoning their underground oil tanks should contact a reputable oil tank company to perform the work and issue a certificate of abandonment.

This article appeared in the June 2022 issue of Lloyd Harbor Life.

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