When we moved into this house about 8 years ago it was pointed out to me by a fuel oil supplier that the pipe legs supporting the heating oil fuel tank were rotted. I got down to look at the legs with a flashlight and found that ‘rotted’ was a good description. There were pieces of the once heavy wall pipe that were missing. There were cracks along the length of the pipe that appeared to have no structural integrity at all. I couldn’t understand why the tank wasn’t collapsed on the floor. In New York State the reporting of fuel oil spills is highly regulated. Your state may have similar laws. Clean-up of toxic spills is highly regulated and very expensive. Even if it wasn’t regulated, the release of 250 gallons of home fuel oil from a ruptured tank is not something you want to have happen in your basement. It is about as messy a spill as you could think of. In the eyes of governing bodies, spilled fuel oil is a Hazardous Material. Spilled fuel oil in your basement is a horror show. For the homeowner, it is a Home Maintenance item that should not be overlooked. Call it Preventive Maintenance. The fuel supplier that inspected the tank opted out of delivering oil to that tank. Fuel oil suppliers typically become defendants when a basement is full of their oil. I didn’t blame him for doing so. I took care of the problem by taking the weight off the tank legs and supporting it with hardwood blocks (cribbing or dunnage). The entire weight of the tank is supported on the dunnage and is probably supported better than it ever was. We used the tank for another seven years after that without concern. The tank is no longer in use. Last year we installed a propane fired high efficiency heating unit. The tank is not leaking and I’m keeping my eye on it. At the first sign of a leak it’ll have to go. It’ll be an expensive proposition to get it up and out of the basement and for that reason, I’m not in a hurry. Our basement is not wet but is damp at certain times of the year. If your basement is wet -or, wet during parts of the year it might be a factor in expediting the deterioration process. The legs holding your tank upright may be as bad or worse than mine were. I would encourage everyone (both home owners and renters) to inspect the legs of their oil storage tank and take remedial action as necessary. If the legs on your fuel oil tank fail there will be a big toxic environmental and regulatory mess and you will regret not having taken action sooner.
Heating Oil Fuel Tanks: Structural Integrity
If the legs on your oil storage tank are in danger of structural failure -the potential risk is not just of being inconvenienced by a massive clean-up effort. There is a risk of a potential health hazard to you and your family. Inspect your tank today. If unsure how to evaluate the condition of the tank legs (supports), call upon your fuel oil supplier. He has a vested interest in the matter and would be happy to take a look. Avoid assuming the ‘out-of-sight, out- of-mind mentality with important items such as your home fuel oil storage tank. It is an integral part of your Home Maintenance regimen. If the tank is found to require attention, it fits well into the Home Improvement sector.
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