All About Underground Storage Tanks
It is likely that most homebuyers don’t really put much thought into underground storage tanks. Many people don’t even know what these are or that they exist, so it’s not something that is usually considered when purchasing a home. However, if any problems arise then you could be spending quite a large amount of money on replacing your underground storage tank. It is a good idea to be informed so that there are no surprises in the future.
What Is It?
An underground storage tank system consists of a tank and underground piping. There has to be at least ten percent of the tank’s combined volume under the ground. There are over 500,000 underground storage tank systems in the US. These tanks store very hazardous substances and are used both residentially and commercially. A potential threat could be groundwater contamination, which is very dangerous since the majority of people use this as their primary drinking source.
Are Leaks Common?
In the past, underground storage tanks were made from bare steel. Over time, when faced with continuous moisture, the material would corrode and eventually begin to leak. As mentioned before, this poses a threat to the drinking source for many Americans. It is also a major explosion and fire hazard. Current regulations require people who have these on their commercial or residential property to be aware of these and update or replace them as needed to avoid any issues. Overall, the United States is safe from leaks since underground tank systems are much safer than they once were.
Are They Regulated By the EPA?
If you own a home whose heating oil is stored in an underground take, you are probably not subject to EPA regulations. The EPA regulations are targeted at underground storage tanks that are used for commercial purposes. This means local governments or fleet service operators that utilize tanks for their own purposes. Residential tanks do not fall into any of the categories that are subject to EPA regulations, so homeowners should not need to worry about this. It is worth mentioning, however, that some state or local authorities have separate regulations for underground tank systems.
Signs of a Leak
Since they are underground, it can be a bit difficult to tell if your storage tank has sprung a leak. If your tank happens to leak into the soil, it is dangerous for the groundwater and the groundwater at homes near yours as well. There are some ways that you can catch a leak and stop it in its tracks. You might smell petroleum, and there might also be stains in the ground around your property or water might appear oily. Other signs include gas fumes in your basement, a strange taste or smell in your water, or your heating system might act up a little. If your underground tank system is leaking or you suspect that it is, you need to contact your local Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Questions to Ask Before Signing
In order to find out the information you need about the status of your underground storage tank, it is a good idea to ask some questions upfront. First, how old is the home that you are interested in? Older tanks are built much differently and there have since been many upgrades to ensure the safety of the community. If you are purchasing an older home, you should ask if the old tank is still on the property or if it has been replaced. It is also important to know if there has previously been a leak on the property. This doesn’t have to be a dealbreaker. If the owner at the time did well with the cleanup, you will be fine. Nonetheless, it is still so beneficial to know the specifications of the leak such as the size of it and how much of the soil was compromised and replace with new soil. Underground storage tanks are not really given much attention by homebuyers and owners since they are generally not an issue. However, if one is not properly maintained or a leak goes unchecked, it poses a risk to you and possibly those who live around you. Maintaining your underground storage tank is the best way you can do your part to ensure the safety of many peoples’ primary drinking sources. In closing, you do not have to use your oil tank if you don’t want to; in this case, you would have to have it drained and removed since leaving it unused has a major impact on the resale value of the property.