Environment Agency Urges Homeowners and Householders To Check Their Tanks

9th October 2007
The Environment Agency is urging people across England, to check their heating oil tanks carefully before filling them for the winter. This year’s summer floods may have lifted them off their foundations and damaged pipe-work. A few have even been seen floating away, in extreme circumstances.

Damaged tanks may leak, polluting local rivers and streams. In extreme cases, an oil pollution incident can prove very costly indeed, both financially and in terms of disruption to people’s daily lives.

When stored and handled correctly, oil is an environmentally responsible fuel choice – less polluting than solid fuel and frequently more efficient than LPG and mains gas. And of course, unlike LPG and natural gas, heating oil isn’t even flammable at normal temperatures, nevermind potentially explosive! However, every year there are a relatively small number of pollution incidents originating from home heating oil tanks that could have been avoided by proper maintenance and good practice.

The Environment Agency suggests that most pollution incidents originating from heating oil storage tanks can be avoided by following these simple steps:

> Inspect your tank, ancillary equipment and pipework at least weekly for damage or signs of leakage. Additionally, old fashioned metal tanks should be inspected for signs of corrosion.

> Use an OFTEC registered technician to service and inspect your boiler, oil tank, ancillary equipment and all pipework, at least once a year.

> Always supervise your oil delivery. Discuss delivery procedures with your fuel delivery company. In particular, check they are happy with your tank and delivery arrangements from both health and safety and pollution prevention perspectives.

> Check your home insurance policy to ensure it covers oil spill clean up costs - in the unlikely event there is a spill at your tank.

> The Environment Agency suggests it can be a good idea to have an oil spill kit with absorbent materials, drain blockers and leak sealing putty to help you deal with a spill or leak. However, most fuel delivery drivers and many oil heating technicians will carry these anyhow.

The easiest way to eliminate many of these risks is to fit an integrally bunded, low maintenance, plastic oil tank. A bunded oil tank consists of a tank within a tank. Oil is stored in the inner tank, with the outer tank acting as a secondary containment area. Therefore, in the event of a spillage, surplus fuel will be contained within the outer tank.

Bunded oil tanks are mandatory at most new and existing commercial, industrial and institutional oil storage installations across the UK and additionally, bunded oil tanks are now a legal requirement at most new and replacement domestic oil tank installations too.

The Environment Agency’s Craig House, says, “People with oil storage tanks should check them regularly and make sure they comply with the regulations – even if they’re empty. It is especially important this year as floodwater may well have damaged the tank or pipework.

“Every Autumn we receive reports of pollution caused when homeowners get their oil tanks refilled before the cold weather arrives. Most incidents are caused by oil spilling from tanks during delivery or leaking during storage. The oil finds its way into local watercourses or into water-bearing rocks below the ground, where it can cause long term damage to water supplies and harm wildlife such as fish, insects and birds.

“Anyone using oil for home heating needs to be aware of the risks and their responsibilities. Homeowners with tanks that hold more than 3,500 litres must comply with The Control of Pollution (Oil Storage) (England) Regulations 2001 but we would encourage everyone to use the standards in them as best practice. If you need advice, phone us on 08708 506 506.

“If you see oil pollution phone us straightaway on our free 24 Hour Incident Hotline 0800 80 70 60. The sooner we know about an incident, the better our chance of minimising the impact on water supplies and the environment.”

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Article Last Updated 9th October 2007
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