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

Property Owners (Sellers):

Heating oil tank issues are becoming more and more common as potential home buyers are learning more about the problems and liabilities associated with buying a property that has or had an underground heating oil tank. 

There is no State or Federal requirement to remove an underground oil tank unless it is known to be leaking.  Therefore, underground oil tanks are an issue that has to be negotiated between the buyer and the seller.  However, there are many benefits for the buyer and the seller to remove the tank and conduct a conclusive assessment.  Please see our Tank Removal Page. 

Holes in the bottom of an underground tank.

Unless the buyer, their realtor, their home inspector, their mortgage lender, and their insurance agent are all inexperienced and naive regarding oil tank concerns, the tank will become an issue during a property transaction. 

Why is an underground tank a concern? 

Most homes built before 1975 used an underground tank to store heating oil. 

88% of all heating oil tanks have leaked requiring cleanup in compliance with State and Federal laws.  Although cleanup can be costly, currently a Trust Fund is available to help pay for the assessment and cleanup costs.   

12% of all heating oil tanks have leaked 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.  Fuel on the water table may impact a neighbor's property or an underground utility.  This could expose you to potential law suits against you.  See Common Questions Page. 

The "closure status" of the tank and associated contamination should affect the market value of the house and how easily the property will sell.  Please see our Property Values, Tanks and Contamination Page. 

A groundwater oil sheen seeping into an excavation pit.

Selling the property does not necessarily release the seller from the tank and cleanup responsibility. 

Because tank ownership and cleanup responsibility is defined by the North Carolina Statues and by Federal law, tank ownership and responsibility is not necessarily "common sense."  

Fuel oil over spill from vent pipe.

For example:  If I sold you a house with termite damage, once you bought the house … it is now your problem and I'm "off the hook."  It is the buyer's responsibility to protect themselves by having the home inspected to know exactly what is the condition of the house that they are buying.  With inspection information, buyers can negotiate repairs or offer a discounted price for the property.  

However, oil tanks are more similar to hazardous waste.  Every person that touches a hazardous waste (the generator, the transporter, and the waste disposal facility) is responsible for the waste until proper disposal is documented. 

Please see our Responsibility and Liability Page. 

Contamination clean up for leaking tanks is required by State and Federal laws. Because 88% of all underground heating oil tanks have leaked, most properties with a house built before 1975 will require an appropriate cleanup.  While tank removal may cost approximately $1900, the contamination clean up is much more expensive (~ $15,000 to $20,000).  Currently, North Carolina has a Trust Fund that can help pay for the assessment and contamination cleanup portion of this scope of work.  Please see our Trust Fund Page. 

Please note that closing a tank in place (i.e. filling with sand) does not gain any benefit for the buyer or for the seller.  Please see our Tank Closure: filling with sand Page.  

Having an unresolved tank and/or contamination issue may slow the sale of your house or even kill the deal.

Excavation of contaminated soil.


Resolve the oil tank concern, by having PES conduct a proper tank removal and a conclusive assessment.  If contamination is discovered (88% leak rate), PES can help you bring your property in to compliance by conducting the required cleanup and by letting the Trust Fund reimburse most of the cost. Please see our Trust Fund page.

Conducting removal and cleanup before attempting to sell the property can help to eliminate the tank concern issue from the property transaction.  We recommend that you conduct the required cleanup before Trust Fund coverage is reduced further.

Please see our About PES page and our Property Sales and Tanks page.

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