Monday, April 2, 2012

Removing an Oil Tank

Home ownership is always a surprise.  Rarely are they good surprises.  I had one recently when looking into getting a generator for the frequent power outages we have after a storm, huge snowfall, or other weather issues.  This time I discovered after all the years I've lived here that there was an oil tank in my backyard.  a 550 gallon tank and it was full of oil.

As the current homeowner, it was my responsibility to get it out of the ground and dispose of it safely.  Leaving it there would create a bigger problem later on, so I immediately got three estimates on removing it, read through their terms and conditions and chose one.

A huge truck arrives and backs into my driveway. The backhoe trailer parks across the street and the driver drive the hoe to the backyard.

Bye-bye grass.  When this is over, I have to buy grass seed.

The equipment arrived and proceeded to dig up my backyard.  First they cut the concrete slab that hold my air conditioner and pool equipment.  Then the backhoe began to dig.

 The tank isn't that far down.  A pump truck pumps out the oil, all 550 gallons of it.  Thankfully, it was all oil and water had not gotten into the tank.  If there was water in there, the cost begins to go up.

Now it's time to cut the top of the empty tank.  With a reciprocating saw they cut the top of the tank wide and long enough to get a human body inside.  The backhoe pulls it open.

The tank if virtually empty except for slug.  The air going into the tank, causes the gas like fumes to escape.  It's only  because the day was windy and cold and the different in temperature makes it looks like smoke.

Our human suits up like an alien and goes inside the tank.

Using special absorbent pads, he cleans all the residual oil out of the tank.  According to EPA requirements, the tanks can't be disposed of with oil inside them.  They also cannot remove the tank with oil in it because of possible slippage which would cause greater problems.

With the tank clean of oil, it's time to remove it from the ground.  The backhoe rolls in again, clears away any excess dirt from the sides and back and then lifts it out of the ground.

The backhoe rolls it a couple of time to get any excess dirt off the tank.  It's time to check for holes and leakage.  They test the dirt in the hole and yes, they smelled oil.  Bad news.

Using large mallet hammers they knock the excess dirt away and look for holes by rolling the tank and checking for sunlight filtering through.  As I mentioned they found a couple the size of a small knitting needle.  Really small, but there.

This mean the EPA gets involves and cost go up.  They take two samples of dirt from the hole and will send them to the EPA.  Depending on their findings, I'll be advised if I have further work to do to clean up the soil.

They close up the hole in my yard, add additional fill dirt to prevent a sink hole.  I pay and they take the tank away.  Now I wait for the EPA's decision.  Lesson learned, when buying a house, ask if there has been any changes in the heating types of the house.  If so, make sure all the proper disposal methods have been done.

The good news, however, is if there is a EPA issue, the state will go after the former homeowners who did not reveal this issue when they sold the house.

At the moment, I'm thankful it's gone.  I bought grass seed and replanted the area just in time for Spring.


  1. Oh my,
    We just changed out our oil furnace to gas this year. We had a person come and siphon out all the oil, but plan on leaving it in the ground for now.
    I will have to show my hubby this post!
    dee dee

    1. Dee dee,

      I'm not sure of the laws in your state, but the EPA is national. Check it out. They told me it probably would not burn as in start a fire, but with erosion of the cap and backyard barbecues, you want to be safe.

      The company that did your conversion should have told you what was needed for the tank.

  2. Wow....Shirley, this is scary stuff! Any number of things could have happened with that tank in the ground! Good riddance to it, and I hope it is good news from the EPA. xo

    1. It was when I discovered it. Thankfully, the guy who saw it knew what it was and alerted me.

  3. hi very nice blog and so cool information.We just changed out our oil furnace to gas this year. We had a person come and siphon out all the oil, but plan on leaving it in the ground for now.

  4. Good thing you had discovered it sooner before it's too late since there is already a leakage. Old oil tanks have a higher possibility of exploding that's why it is really important to make sure that your oil tank is in good condition.

  5. What could be more surprising than learning that there is a huge thing buried in your backyard? I am glad to hear the words of responsibilities from you as homeowners. Tanks can be harmful if neglected. If you don't know its content, better leave it to the professionals. You've made the right decision. Have a great day!

    Leigh Stoneham @New Jersey Oil Tank Removal

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  9. Removing that oil tank looks like it was a really difficult process! My parents want to remove theirs because they are switching to natural gas. Their tank is above ground so I think it should be easier to remove. Do you think they will still need a crane though?
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