Practical Environmental Solutions, P.C.Practical Environmental Solutions, P.C.
Serving Wilmington and Southeastern North Carolina 910.790.8265 FAQ | About PES | Home

Most homes built before 1975 used an underground tank to store heating oil.  These bare steel tanks have been slowly corroding underground many years beyond their 15 to 20 year life expectancy.  

88% of all underground oil tanks have leaked, requiring cleanup of contaminated soil and/or groundwater.  

12% have leaked so significantly that fuel oil is measured floating on top of the water table. Up to 4 feet of fuel has been measured floating on the water table at a residential property in the Wilmington area. 

This level of contamination could be under your tank or at the property that you are looking to purchase.  Use our web site to learn why addressing this issue is in the buyer's and the seller's best interest. 

State and Federal laws require cleanup of contamination from underground oil leaks.   

In addition to degrading the groundwater resource, your oil tank leak could contaminate a neighbor's irrigation well requiring you to not only cleanup the contamination but also exposing you to possible personal injury law suits.  Other underground utilities could also be impacted by your leaking oil tank.    

Corrosion holes in the bottom of an underground oil tank.

Although a State Trust Fund (Trust Fund Page) is available to assist with some of the cleanup costs, not all costs are covered.  Some costs will have to be paid by the homeowner.  Depending on the "use-history" of the tank, financial cleanup responsibility and legal liability may be passed on to property buyers even if they never used the underground oil tank.  The required assessment and cleanup can cost $15,000 to $20,000.  (Cost: Page)


Potential Buyers:

Buyer Beware! To protect yourself and your investment, it is important to understand the issues surrounding oil tanks before purchasing a property.  Let PES help you avoid assuming the tank / contamination cleanup responsibility (Responsibility page), legal liability exposure (Responsibility page), and financial burden (Cost page) to resolve a previous property owner's oil tank contamination problem.  We strongly recommend that buyers require oil tanks to be properly removed and contamination reported to the State before closing on a property.  A buyer who fails to take these actions may become a "tank owner," fully responsible for the tank and associated contamination (even if they never used the tank).


Property Owners (Sellers):

Fuel oil on top of the water table. As much as 4 feet of fuel oil has been measured floating on top of the water table at a residential property in the Wilmington area.

Selling the property does not necessarily release the seller from legal responsibility for the tank and associated contamination.  North Carolina statues define a "tank owner" as the current and all previous property owners.  Sellers (previous property owners) may find themselves pulled into an oil tank contamination situation years after they sold the property. 

Conducting the required contamination cleanup with either a proper tank removal or a State approved closure-in-place is the only way to satisfy State and Federal requirements and to end the tank responsibility and legal liability for sellers (previous property owners). 

Unresolved oil tank and contamination situation will devalue the property and make it harder to sell. (Property Value Page)

Because the amount of future Trust Fund coverage is not guaranteed, conducting a proper tank closure and contamination cleanup now may cost a property owner less than it will later.  

Preventing the transfer of legal liability and cleanup responsibility to the property buyer may provide a selling advantage and protect the full market value of the property during real estate transactions.


Actions NOT Recommended:

Do not remove the tank without a proper soil assessment and closure activity documentation.  This does not resolve the concern regarding soil and groundwater contamination or end the contamination cleanup responsibility and associated liability.  State and Federal law requires oil contamination cleanup, not tank removal.  This action may also jeopardize Trust Fund coverage for assessment and cleanup activities that may be required later.  (Tank Closure: Removal without Assessment)

Similarly, do not fill the tank with sand or concrete.  It is a waste of money.  This action does not address the oil that has already leaked out of the tank contaminating soil and possibly groundwater.  State and Federal law requires oil contamination cleanup, not filling the tank.  Therefore, filing a tank does not bring the property any closer to compliance with State and Federal regulations.  A "filled" tank costs more to remove later during contamination cleanup. (Tank Closure: Fill with Sand)


Practical Environmental Solutions has over 20 years experience with underground storage tanks and has removed over 200 tanks in the Wilmington area since 2001.  We are licensed, fully insured, and offer free, no-obligation estimates. 

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