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HOME HEATING OIL TANKS

There is starling increase in the number of home heating oil tank failures. These failures are not isolated accidents, but are part of a trend which we will see over the next few years. It is time to recognize that 40-60 year-old tanks will fail sooner or later. Corrosion is inevitable with unprotected mild steel tanks. Like those in the gasoline service stations they need to be replaced. Unless this is done, insurers could face expensive cleanup costs over the next generation as, one by one, they fail. In our experience, these avoidable cleanups have cost between $20,000 and $200,000.

 

Course of Action

We recommend the following course of action:

• insurers should support a program to convince home owners to replace 25 to 30 year-old steel oil tanks; there could be exception for those which are being cathodically protected but a periodic inspection would be required;

• the replacement tanks should be corrosion resistant;

• the cooperation of the fuel oil dealers should be enlisted.

Walters Consulting Corporation has developed the technique of flushing soil to avoid expensive 'dig and haul' operations when a leak occurs. We are also prepared to apply soil venting and bioremediation where it is feasible and to treat waste water by absorption to avoid equally expensive 'pump and treat' operations. However, we believe that prevention is the best cure.

Walters Consulting Corporation is prepared to place its resources at the disposal of the Insurance Industry to assist in putting a program in place.

Background

At the time of the First World War, coal was the primary means of heating homes as well as providing heat and steam for factories. Oil, particularly #2 furnace fuel oil, began to make inroads into coal's domination of home heating in the 1930's. The first oil furnaces were, in fact, converted coal furnaces.

One consequence of this is that the oldest home heating oil tanks are about 60 years old and many of those installed during the building boom of the 50s and 60s are now approaching 40-years-old. Unfortunately, many of them have corroded from the inside where the failure is not visible. Pinholes have formed, and are only prevented from leaking by the coat of paint on the outside. When one pin hole leak starts the result is a nasty basement oil spill. If the tank is outside, then the oil spill will penetrate along the building walls to the footing and to the ground water beneath. Outdoor tanks are also subject to crevice corrosion at the point where brackets contact the tank.

 
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Walters Forensic Engineering | 277 Wellington Street West, Suite 800 | Toronto, ON M5V 3H2
Information contact: engineering@waltersforensic.com