Avoiding Costly Problems With Oil Spills and Leakage
A leaking fuel oil tank can become a serious fire and environmental hazard. Whether the tank is located inside or outside the home, a spill can contaminate groundwater affecting private wells or other nearby drinking water supplies.
One cup of fuel oil can contaminate enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool, and in many cases hundreds of litres of oil seep into the ground before a spill is discovered.
Fuel oil that has spilled into a residential basement can also pose a serious health hazard, threatening indoor air quality.
Anyone who owns a fuel oil tank has a legal responsibility to properly maintain it and to clean up any spills or leaks that may occur. Homeowners are also responsible under the Environmental Protection Act for reporting any leak or spill from a tank that could cause property damage or health, safety or environmental problems.
Cleaning up a spill from a home heating oil tank is an expensive exercise. The removal of oil from a basement, or the cleanup of contaminated soil and water can often cost more than the property is worth, and damage may not be fully covered by homeowner insurance.
Having a tank installed only by a registered contractor and inspecting it regularly can help avoid the problems associated with oil spills and leakage.
Homeowners are required to ensure their tanks are CSA or ULC approved, properly installed and accessible for inspection.
Taking the following steps can help avoid problems and ensure safe usage of a fuel oil tank:
Inspecting an oil tank
REMEMBER THESE FUEL OIL FACTS
Handling spills and leaks
Homeowners should take the following steps as soon as a spill or leak is discovered.
Amended Ontario provincial regulations ensure that fuel oil tanks are installed and inspected by licensed persons and tanks are replaced periodically depending upon tank design.
Affordable and effective secondary containment to protect against leaking fuel oil tanks is available in the form of ULC approved geo-membrane bags, such as the S.Bag - a sort of oil tank diaper that will contain any spills during tank re-fuelling or from leaks.
For more information on residential fuel oil tanks and Ontario laws governing them, please contact:
In other provinces, check the government listings in the local telephone directory to locate the appropriate department. To obtain immediate assistance, contact your fuel supplier or heating contractor, or a licensed professional cleanup service.
Gil Strachan is a professional home inspector, representing Electrospec Home Inspection Services in east-central Ontario since 1994.