My book club met again today, and before our talk turned to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (a great book, by the way), we discussed heating oil tanks—specifically old ones, how much trouble they can cause, and how much it can cost to get rid of them.
Our conclusion was that if you have an older, underground oil tank, it makes a lot of sense to have your ground tested for leaking oil, and, once it's determined that the tank is in tact, to take out oil tank insurance.
The conversation about oil tanks began when we started talking about one of our neighbors, Maurice, who sold his house this summer and moved back to New York. Maurice moved a few weeks ago, but we noticed last week that the new owners were having the front lawn dug up. At first I thought that was just an effort to get rid of Maurice's beautiful, eclectic garden and to replace it with smooth, green grass, but Karen, our resident real estate broker, gave us the real story.
Must Have Soil Tested For Contamination
Maurice's transition from suburban to city life was made a lot more stressful when the house inspector informed him that heating oil was found in his front yard soil. Having the soil tested for oil contamination when you have an underground oil tank is a requirement if you're selling a house in New Jersey.
In my neighbor's case, it turns out that his oil tank had rusted and was riddled with holes. Luckily, he had oil tank insurance, which is something you can purchase from your fuel oil supplier for roughly $200 a year.
$50,000 Without Insurance
What I learned from my friend was that if an inspector finds oil seepage in your yard, you will have to have the corroded tank removed and the contaminated soil dug out, hauled away and replaced with good soil. If you don't have tank insurance, this process can cost close to $50,000!!
So, if you have an older home with an underground oil tank, go get tank insurance. Also, if you plan to have an old tank removed, be prepared for a big mess. In our town, we're responsible for the sidewalk in front of our house. Our other neighbors were going to have their side walk replaced before they dug up their tank, but they were advised to wait for a new sidewalk because disposing of their front yard tank would have ruined any nearby cement, curb and walkway included.