Hidden Underground Storage Tanks

Cedar Rock can assist you in finding out whether or not there is an underground heating oil storage tank (UST) present on your property.

It is not unusual for current property owners to be completely unaware that an oil storage tank is buried on their property. Because of ownership changes over the years they may never have known that their home once used heating oil. Often they have used natural gas, propane or electricity to heat the house as long as they have lived there. The fill and vent pipes of the old underground oil tank may have rusted away, been removed or been obscured by landscaping changes. Additions to the house may have been built over the UST!

Many homes built prior to 1940 were originally heated with coal. In the 1940s and 1950s, fuel oil and kerosene became a common source for heat. Heating oil storage tanks were usually buried beside the house with the only visible sign being the fill and vent pipes as seen in the photos to the right.

As time passed, the heating system would need replacing, or the UST started leaking. Another tank might be buried beside the original UST, or the leaking underground tank be replaced with an above ground oil tank, with or without removal of the old oil tank and any oil it contained. If natural gas was available the entire heating system might be replaced and the old UST was left in the ground, often with several inches of heating oil remaining in the tank.

The life expectancy of these tanks is approximately 20 to 30 years. Many buried tanks have leaked for years while still in use.

Cedar Rock often uses a metal detector and probing rod during a site inspection to find USTs that property owners had no knowledge of. Clues to the presence of a UST on a property include:

  1. The home is located in an older neighborhood (pre-1960s)where most homes used to, or currently, heat with fuel oil or kerosene.
  2. Natural gas service was established years after the house was built.
  3. An above ground storage tank is present (often installed to replace a leaking UST).
  4. Copper fuel delivery and return lines are in the basement or crawlspace (often cut off at the wall).
  5. Oil staining or odor may be present in basement or crawlspace walls.
  6. More rarely, there may be dead or dying shrubbery near the house.

It is very common for there to be no signs that an underground heating oil tank has leaked.

To protect your investment or to allow the unhindered sale of your property contact Cedar Rock to arrange an inspection of your property of interest.

Examples of things to look for

The left photo below, shows the fill and vent pipes leading from the outside to the UST which is now buried in concrete in the basement. The photo to the right shows the copper fuel lines (supply and return line) extend through the crawlspace foundation wall. Severed lines suggest an inactive UST is buried somewhere outside.

Fill and vent pipes in basement Copper fuel lines to UST cut off and crimped

Here we see in the left photo staining in the crawlspace walls which was caused by leakage from an UST buried in the ground outside these walls. To the right are copper supply/return lines that had been covered by a brick patio.

Staining in basement walls from leakage Copper fuel lines hidden by landscaping work

In the left photo below cut-off copper supply/return lines are visible through the foundation. The right photo shows the lines inside the foundation.

Cut off copper lines in foundation Copper fuel inside crawlspace

This photo shows the copper lines complete with the original oil filter which was normally found near the furnace.Oil filter and copper lines