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Oil Tank Safety

| August 22, 2013

You may not know it, but your oil tank may be at risk of an oil spill if you’re not keeping an eye on it. 25-30% of all spills involve oil tanks. Lee Thomas of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection cites 3 leading causes of spills from heating oil tanks, whether they’re in homes or businesses.

“Internal corrosion, physical damage to the tanks or the piping unit and, finally, overfills.”

Thomas has some advice on things to look for to ensure your tank is safe.

“Take a look at how the tanks are situated. Are they stable? If they’re an outside tank, they shouldn’t be under the roof eave. They should be on a slab and it should be a stable slab, nice and even. The tank should be plumb.”

For inside tanks, Thomas advises to look around the tank. Make sure there’s no clutter around it.

“If you see that the tank looks really rusted or there’s weeping or real wet appearances on the lower half of the tank, then that is showing the tank’s steel has weathered and corroded to the extent where it’s very thin.”

Thomas explains that the corrosion will start from the inside and work its way out.

“And you can see how pitted it is from the inside. This is the inside of the tank, the bottom of the tank and you can see the divots. This is the thickness of the steel, but you can see how much of it is compromised.”

Thomas also showed us where the steel had been corroded away leaving a hole, allowing the fuel oil to spill out, potentially losing hundreds of dollars in oil and a big mess to clean up. Thomas adds a tank can last 25-30 years if properly installed. Besides regular steel tanks, there’s also double-bottomed tanks and fiberglass tanks, which won’t corrode at all.

Thomas recommends having your oil company check your tank regularly or you can call the D.E.P. and they’ll come out and visually inspect it for you for free. The number is 764-0477.

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