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Heating Oil Information

Requirements and Standards

Cleanup Requirements / Reporting Requirements / Cleanup Standards / Records

Confirmation of the existence of contamination or suspicion of contamination resulting from a spill or release of heating oil should prompt several pertinent questions:

  • What reports must be made, and to whom?
  • When does a cleanup have to occur?
  • What is the required level or standard of cleanup?

Cleanup Requirements

Chapter 173-340 WAC (Model Toxics Control Act - Cleanup) addresses the requirement for expeditious cleanup of contamination and the requirement to conduct remedial action necessary to protect human health and the environment. Reporting requirements address contamination that may pose a threat to human health and the environment.

If contamination from a spill or release from a heating oil tank does not pose an imminent or substantial threat to human health and the environment, cleanup does not have to be accomplished immediately. A property transfer may well prompt a lender or purchaser to require cleanup prior to completion of the property transfer, but there is no legal requirement to effect an immediate cleanup.

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Reporting Requirements

Minor leaks or spills from heating oil tanks do not have to be reported to Ecology. Minor leaks are those that affect only the soil near the tank. If, however, heating oil has spread to surface water, such as a creek, lake, river, or storm sewer it must be reported immediately to the State 's Emergency Management Division at 1-800-258-5990. If heating oil contamination has caused any of the following situations, a report should be made to the appropriate Ecology Regional Office within 90 days:

  • Contamination has reached adjoining properties.
  • Contamination has affected a well or groundwater.
  • Vapor problems in nearby buildings have been caused by the contamination.
  • Oil has pooled on the surface of the ground.

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Cleanup Standards

Corrective action to remove or treat contamination from heating oil should not, in most cases, be perplexing. Dealing with contaminated soil is usually not complicated. The presence, however, of contamination of surface or groundwater, or the presence of fumes in a basement or crawl space may complicate the problem and lead to more involved or costly courses of corrective action.

Chapter 173-340 WAC ( Model Toxics Control Act - Cleanup) provides guidance and requirements related to the cleanup process, cleanup standards, reports, etc. The Rule provides several approaches for establishing cleanup levels.

The Method A approach should be used for sites undergoing routine cleanup actions and for establishing soil cleanup levels. Heating Oil is essentially diesel fuel and the appropriate hazardous substance measured for corrective action is TPH (total petroleum hydrocarbons).

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Records

Although at this time there is no legal requirement to do so, you should keep a copy of all correspondence related to a heating oil tank project, including copies of any lab analyses. It is advisable to take photos during any testing, corrective action or related activities, and maintain copies.

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Tank Decommissioning

The local Fire Chief or Fire Marshal establishes the requirements or procedures for dealing with heating oil tanks that are no longer in service. The International Fire Code requires that an underground heating oil tank, which has been out of service for a period of one year, must be:

  • Removed from the ground, or
  • Permanently closed in place.

The decision as to which option will be required is up to the local Fire Chief or Fire Marshal. (Reference: International Fire Code, Section 3404.2.13.1.3)

Closing Tanks in Place

If an underground heating oil tank is closed in place all of the following requirements must be met:

  • Flammable and combustible liquids must be removed from the tank and connected piping.
  • The suction, inlet, gauge, vapor return and vapor lines must be disconnected.
  • The tank must be filled completely with an approved inert solid material.
  • All remaining underground piping must be capped or plugged.
  • A record of the tank size, location and date of abandonment must be retained.
  • All exterior above-grade fill piping must be permanently removed.

(Reference: International Fire Code, Section 3404.2.13.1.4)

This outline should only be used as a guide. If you have further questions regarding decommissioning please contact your local Fire Marshal, or Fire Chief, regarding the requirements in your area.

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Heating Oil Pollution Liability Insurance Program

The Pollution Liability Insurance Agency offers this program to provide up to $60,000 of insurance coverage for cleanup of contamination from heating oil tanks that are registered in the program prior to the contamination occurring. There is no cost to the owner for this coverage. Click here for more information.

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Heating Oil Advice and Technical Assistance Program

The Pollution Liability Insurance Agency offers this program to provide technical assistance to the owners and operators of active or abandoned heating oil tanks if contamination resulting from a release is suspected. Assistance regarding administrative and technical requirements may include observation of testing, site assessment, as well as review of the results of reports and other appropriate activities. PLIA is authorized to provide written opinions on the results of testing and assessment, noting if appropriate, that contamination resulting from a release of heating oil appears or does not appear to be a threat to human health and the environment. Click here for more information.

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