Clues to Finding Buried Fuel Oil Tanks

Clues to Finding Buried Fuel Oil Tanks

If you’re buying a house with pipes sticking out of the ground in your yard, heads up.  You might have an oil tank somewhere at the property.   While the vast majority of homes maybe heated with natural gas, there is still a percentage of homes that are heated with fuel oil, and far more houses with abandoned oil tanks.

When a home gets converted from fuel oil to natural gas, the fuel oil tank becomes out-of-service and needs to be properly closed.  Deal with a tank before it becomes your nightmare.

When tanks remain out-of-service

If the tank is buried, it needs to be removed or filled in place.  If a fuel oil tank is left buried, it could eventually leak.  A leaking underground storage tank (LUST) can contaminate the soil as well as the groundwater, creating an environmental hazard that can cost a ridiculous amount of money to clean up.  In the State of New Jersey, there are limited funds for residential tank remediation and the possibility of home owner’s insurance coverage, but the sooner you know a problem exists the better.  The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) also certifies contractors to remove underground storage tanks and complete clean up – ONLY USE AN NJDEP CERTIFIED CONTRACTOR.

When a tank is located inside the house but not buried, it needs to be properly disconnected, and removed.  A fuel oil tank takes up a large amount of room, so most people choose to have them removed, but requirements vary from area to area.  Another option for an abandoned fuel oil tank is to stick it out in your front yard and paint it like a cow.  You might think I’m kidding, but….


Clues to a buried fuel oil tank

The easiest way to identify a potential buried fuel oil tank is to look for a fill pipe and vent pipe at the exterior of the home.  Sometimes the pipes will go through the foundation wall of the home.


Sometimes they just go down in to the ground.


When fuel oil tanks are removed, the fill and vent pipes need to be removed or cut off and filled with concrete.  If you find pipes sticking out of the ground or foundation wall like the ones shown above, it probably means one of two things: either the tank is still there, or it was removed by a hack.  No professional oil tank removal contractor is going to leave the vent and fill pipes looking like that.

There were many ‘erroneous deliveries’ that happened during the 60’s and 70’s, where one house address got confused with another.  About once a year, a basement would get contaminated with hundreds of gallons of fuel oil.  In some cases, the contamination was so bad that the fuel oil company had to buy the property so they could tear it down and dig out the basement.  This is why the fill pipes always need to be removed when the tank is removed.

When the pipes are right next to each other like in the photos above, there’s a good chance that the fuel oil tank is (or was) located inside the house or under the house.  When the pipes are separated from each other, there’s a very good possibility that there’s a buried fuel oil tank in the yard.


Here’s another example – these innocuous, nearly hidden pipes led to an enormous buried tank in the front yard.


What to do if you suspect a buried oil tank

If you suspect a buried oil tank, call Brilliant Environmental Services, LLC (888-901-2537)/  They’ve been specializing in fuel oil tank removal / abandonment for over 10 years and owner Phil Brilliant for over 25 years.   To determine if a fuel oil tank is present, they’ll come out and do a site inspection for around $240.