Copper tubes protruding from a basement floor or foundation can indicate the presence of an underground heating oil tank. An oil tank sweep can determine conclusively the presence of a buried heating oil tank.
Nonprofit Home Inspections offers unbiased oil tank sweeps for our clients in Oregon and Washington. An oil tank sweep is an important step home buyers should consider in order to find out if there is a buried underground fuel oil tank on the property.
Nonprofit Home Inspections employs a former Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) licensed Heating Oil Tank (HOT) supervisor to oversee our oil tank sweep program. While other home inspectors and companies may offer oil tank sweeps and soil sampling, if they don’t employ someone who has been a DEQ licensed Heating Oil Tank Supervisor, they may not understand the regulations concerning soil sampling and tank locates.
Underground Fuel Oil Tank
Underground fuel oil tanks were popular because they were considered to be less of a fire hazard that above ground fuel oil tanks. However, it readily became apparent that metal tanks were prone to rusting and failing over time. Leaking underground storage tanks have been responsible for significant environmental damage and expensive remediation bills for unsuspecting buyers. Buyers of a new home should conduct an oil tank sweep to make sure that there are no abandoned fuel oil tanks on the property as remediation costs can be extremely expensive.
Nonprofit Home Inspections employs a former DEQ licensed Heating Oil Tank (HOT) Supervisor that oversees our oil tank sweep program. In order to maintain our independence as an unbiased, inspection only company, we only conduct fuel oil tank sweeps and do not conduct fuel oil tank decommissioning or remediation. This independence removes any profit motive for finding and then offering to remediate very expensive repairs. If there is a problem, we are happy to refer you to contractors we trust, but we will always give you straight facts so that you can make an informed decision without unnecessary pressure.
Heating Oil Tank Databases
Vent pipes on the exterior of the home may indicate the presence of a buried fuel oil tank. Getting an oil tank sweep can verify the presence of an underground heating oil tank.
As part of our oil tank sweep service, our licensed technicians will review government databases for evidence of underground fuel oil tanks. Please note that these databases are incomplete, however, so conducting an on-site search along with soil sampling as necessary is a critical component in conducting due diligence for purchasing a new home. In fact, some properties may contain multiple underground fuel oil tanks, so a thorough scan of the property by a licensed inspector is very important.
In Oregon, a great place to start is by looking through Oregon DEQ’s Leaking Underground Storage Tank (LUST) database. This database will tell you if the Oregon DEQ has any record of contaminated soil samples because of an underground fuel oil tank. Because the search function for this database can be fickle, the best way to search this database is to input only the numbers in the home’s street address input field (i.e. just enter 123 if the address is 123 Main Street). This will result in a large list of all the homes in Oregon with the same numbers, but it can easily honed down to just the applicable address. If the site address is marked as “closed”, it means that the underground storage tank has been certified as decommissioned. If it is marked as “open” or “unassigned”, it means that it has not been certified yet.
To find out if an underground fuel oil tank has been voluntarily decommissioned without a leak, visit the Oregon DEQ’s website and click on the “HOT Clean Decommissioning Sites” database. This is a downloadable Excel file that you can search with the find function (Ctrl + F on Windows / Linux and Command + F on Apple computers).
Unless the site was decommissioned recently, a properly decommissioned heating oil tank should appear in one of the two Oregon DEQ databases listed above.
The presence of a fuel oil cap in the yard likely indicates that a fuel oil tank is buried in the yard. An oil tank sweep can help determine the size and location of a buried oil tank.
In Portland, a great resource for permits and historical documents in PortlandMaps.com. To find out if PortlandMaps has record of an underground fuel oil tank for your property, visit the website and then search for your address. Click on “permits” and then scroll down to see if there are any historic permits for “Underground Storage Tanks.” The site mentions surrounding properties as well, so if any appear, make sure that it is for the address you are looking for. If present, you can click on the links to view a scan of the actual historic permit in order to find additional details including the tank size, tank location and other relevant information. Because Portland has grown over the years, this database is incomplete and does not cover areas annexed into the city after 1951.
If you live in Washington, unfortunately there are no public databases for underground fuel oil tanks. You can still look for visual indications of an oil tank on your own, but only a complete tank sweep by a licensed technician will completely verify the absence (or presence) of an underground heating oil tank.
Visual Indications of an Underground Fuel Oil Tank
There are a few visual signs that an underground fuel oil tank may be buried on the property. One very distinctive signs is the presence of two copper lines coming through the foundation wall or up through the floor in a basement. Another sign is the presence of a small 1 1/2 inch vent pipe on the exterior of the home near the foundation. This was used to vent the oil tank during filling and operation. Another obvious sign is the presence of a fill tank cap in the yard. All of these visual indicators can be hidden or covered over time, however, so a complete oil tank sweep is critical in verifying the presence of one or more underground fuel oil tanks.
Soil Sampling for Underground Heating Oil Tanks
If an underground heating oil tank has been found during an oil tank sweep, we can recommend an independent DEQ licensed contractor who can take soil samples that will be sent to an independent laboratory for analysis. This involves using specialized tools to extract core samples on the sides and front of the tank. Results are typically back from the laboratory within 3 – 5 business days so that you can make an informed decision.
Why Have Us Conduct an Oil Tank Sweep
Visual indications of a fuel oil tank can be hidden over time. Conducting an oil tank sweep is the only way to determine if your property contains an underground storage tank.
There are a number of advantages for having Nonprofit Home Inspections conduct an oil tank sweep as part of our home inspection process. Specifically, our licensed home inspectors do not have any financial incentive for finding and then attempting to repair very expensive defects. As an inspection only company, we are able to give factual based reports without pressuring clients into unnecessary and very expensive repairs.
Secondly, because our inspectors are on-site already, they become intimately aware of the visually accessible components in your new home. This can aid in finding additional visual indications of an underground fuel oil tank that might be missed by other technicians.
Thirdly, because our inspectors are already on site, we can offer competitive pricing for oil tank sweeps. While remediation companies may offer cheap oil tank sweeps as a loss leader in order to generate oil tank decommissioning business, we provide unbiased inspection services without any interest in pushing unnecessary repairs.
What Is Found In an Oil Tank Sweep
Your oil tank sweep will find large metal objects underground that may include heating oil tanks, metal cesspools, septic tanks, additional tanks and other buried metal objects. Based on the dimensions of the object found, our trained technician will probe the soil to verify the presence of an underground heating oil tank. If a tank has been found, soil samples from a contractor can be taken to determine if the tank has leaked or not.