Underground Oil Tanks

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Underground Oil (storage) Tank Removal

Many years ago, before natural gas became widely available in 1957, many Vancouver homes were heated with furnace oil. These oil tanks held between 300-1,000 gallons of oil, and were buried underground for storage. Upon converting to natural gas, homeowners often kept the oil tanks buried in the soil, simply filling them up with sand or having them capped, sometimes without emptying them properly. posing significant environmental risk.

As the underground oil tanks age, they are prone to rust and corrosion which result in oil leaking onto the property and neighbouring properties, as well as waterways such as storm pumps. The environmental impact is just part of the problem, there are also negative consequences to the market value of the land, and various legal statutes and bylaws which may have been broken, such as those related to the Environmental Management Act of BC.

Underground Storage Tank

If an underground oil tank can be removed safely, the responsibility for this lies with the current property owner.

The BC Fire Code has stated that all underground oil tanks must be removed, and that contaminated soil, if any, must also be removed and replaced. Two exceptions are allowed under this requirement. The first exception to this rule applies if the removal of the oil tank is impossible due to its location underneath a permanent structure on the property. Secondly, if the removal of the oil tank would negatively affect the structural integrity of adjoining or nearby buildings. In such cases, the owner has to take other actions to render the tank inert, using a licensed contractor as determined by the fire authority.

Costs and Consequences

The cost for an underground oil tank removal will depend on the size and location of the tank but should generally cost less than $1000 if the tank was capped and filled with sand and there is no evidence of any soil contamination. Costs for a leaky oil tank removal complete with soil remediation can reach 6-figures pretty quickly if you consider the worst case scenario of oil seepage into an underground waterway or neighbouring properties.

It is not uncommon for a property to have more than 1 underground storage tank or even an above ground storage tank. Don’t take any chances, have your Realtor® protect your interests with proper disclosure and proper documentation. Failure to have proper oil tank removal paperwork may result in your lending institution refusing your mortgage loan application as well as an inability to get proper homeowners insurance.

A prudent seller will have the issue of underground oil tanks taken care of before listing their property thereby removing any potential issue all together. How do they do this? By getting a professional scan of the property to verify that no oil tank is present. If one is found, have the tank professionally removed and to have the proper paperwork ready for any buyer requesting this verification.

Record keeping and oil tank removal requirements vary by municipality. Check out our Municipality specific oil tank removal page for info pertaining to your neighbourhood.

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