What to Know About Older Portland Homes with Oil Heat Tanks

In years prior to 1965 homes and buildings in Portland were often heated with a heating oil tank. Today most Portland homes use electricity or natural gas, but homes built before 1965 in Portland may still have either a permanently decommissioned heating oil tank or an operating one.What to Know About Older Portland Homes with Oil Heat Tanks

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality reports that there are around 27,308 permanently decommissioned heating oil tanks buried underground across the state of Oregon. Tens of thousands more are still in operation above and below ground and still heating homes currently. Some tanks are sitting abandoned underground some of these tanks may be leaking oil and no one even knows that they are there.

How to know if an oil tank should be decommissioned

There are three steps to decommissioning a heating oil tank:

  • Emptying out and cleaning the oil tank
  • Filling the tank with dirt or completely removing it
  • Testing the surrounding soil to make sure there were not any leaks while the tank was still usable

If it is found a tank has leaked extensive soil removal may be needed at the site where the tank was. Most heating oil tanks that are found in Portland homes have probably been decommissioned but may need re-decommissioning. The department of environmental quality keeps two lists of sites where these tanks have been decommissioned in the past, however, their list only goes back to the year 2000. If a tank was decommissioned before then there may be little information. Further, any tank that was decommissioned prior to 2009 may not have had soil removal from this site as the two carcinogens present in heating oil were not classified as carcinogens until 2009. If your tank was decommissioned previously the department of environmental quality should be able to give you a copy of the report detailing the decommissioning process as long as it was after the year 2000.

If there is no information available or no information in regards to soil testing a buyer is smart to request a new oil tank search and decommissioning on a home built prior to 1965. This does not mean that a seller is obligated to pay for the services though.

More: How to Clean Up Abandoned Property

What are a home seller’s requirements for a home with a heating oil tank?

Above ground heating oil tanks currently in use should have no leaks or spills around the tank and no action in repair required.

For an underground tank or a tank no longer in use a seller must ensure that there is no oil in the tank, if you have no knowledge of a heating oil tank on your property that is older than 1965 you are not required to do a search for one before selling the home.

If you know there is a heating oil tank on the property that is no longer in use the seller must provide documentation that the tank has been emptied this can be in the form of a dated receipt from the company that emptied the tank or a receipt from the oil recycling company if you have emptied the tank on your own.

If a heating oil tank has leaked any oil at all whether it is currently in use or not the seller is responsible for any oil cleanup.

Related: The Most Common Problems Found in Home Inspections

Important things for buyers to know about heating oil tanks

Any active heating oil tank should always be checked for leaks and the condition of the soil around the tank should be checked for residue or evidence of spills.

Tanks that are no longer operating should be decommissioned as stated above this means that they should be emptied of oil and all soil should be tested and removed if necessary.

You are interested in purchasing a home built before 1965 in Portland and the seller is not aware of a heating oil tank on the property or has not disclosed one it could be worth hiring a professional to search for a heating oil tank. You can also check the department of environmental quality’s decommissioning list to see if there have been any other tanks decommissioned in the immediate area.

Department of environmental quality states that the current owner of the property is responsible for any necessary cleanup even if the oil leak happened before they took possession of the property. If someone buys the property knowing that the tank is on the property and no work has been done to determine if it has leaked that person becomes responsible for any leaks discovered in the future.

Knowing about heating oil tanks in older Portland homes is important for safety reasons. If you are considering purchasing an older home in the Portland area it is always good to know if there is a heating oil tank on the property.

For more information on homes for sale in Portland please contact us at any time.

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