Environmental Protection

Homeowners Should Inspect Heating Oil Tanks for Leaks

With winter approaching, Pennsylvania's Department of Environmental Protection urges homeowners to inspect their indoor and outdoor home heating oil tanks for potential problems prior to re-filling.

 “A quick, 10-minute visual inspection of the tank is important to identify potentially serious problems before they occur,” said Michael Bedrin, Environmental Protection Northeast Regional director.

 Tank owners should check the tank and all structural supports for signs of rusting. The tank’s fill line and the feed line to the furnace should be examined for leaks. Wet spots or odors near the tank may signal a problem.

 If a resident cannot be home when fuel oil is delivered, clearly mark the fill pipe with a red flag or marker and inform the oil company of that location. Make certain that any disconnected fill pipes that remain above ground are permanently sealed and cannot be opened.

 In addition, tanks should never be tipped over or emptied on the ground. Any maintenance or alterations to a heating oil tank system should be done by a professional, and consumers should always assume the tank contains oil.

 “Many environmental problems can result from a leaking tank or line. This is especially true if the tank suddenly ruptures and collapses,” Bedrin said. “Homeowners also should be sensitive to the increased cost of losing heating oil beyond the serious environmental consequences of a leak or spill. Proper maintenance helps to save money.”

 Leaking heating oil could cause indoor air problems and potential contamination of groundwater and private drinking water wells. A spill cleanup can cost several thousand dollars, and, with the higher costs of heating oil, residents would not want to lose fuel needlessly.

 Residents who think their oil tank may have a problem should immediately contact their oil company for help.  Residents can obtain a free DEP fact sheet, “Tips for Residential Heating Oil Tank Owners,” by visiting www.depweb.state.pa.us, keyword: “Storage Tanks.”

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