Does your home have an underground oil storage tank? Perhaps it holds your heating oil. Maybe you don't even use it any more. Whether you use it now or not, a tank that leaks oil into the environment can cost you big time, particularly if it affects the water table. If you have an underground tank, check with us to see what coverage your homeowners policy provides for leaks. You need coverage for both cleanup costs and liability to other parties. Without a special endorsement, your policy probably doesn't cover the cleanup costs. In addition, the following are some important ways to reduce the chance of loss arising from fuel leaks, a loss that could cost tens of thousands of dollars without proper insurance coverage.
  • If you are not sure whether you have an underground storage tank on your property, check with your realtor or your local environmental government agency. These agencies often have information on registered oil tanks. Also, if your neighbors have underground storage tanks, chances are that your home has one, too.
  • If your heating oil tank is still in use, watch for signs that it may be leaking, such as your furnace using more fuel than normal based on the weather and temperature.
  • If your heating oil tank is over 10 years old, you should have it periodically inspected for leakage. Soil sampling can often be performed for this task rather than extensive digging. Above ground oil tanks should be visually inspected on a regular basis by a licensed contractor.
  • If you suspect a leak, know that you are responsible for the cleanup as well as the disposal and replacement of this tank. The longer you wait, the more contaminants will be released and the more the cleanup will cost. Hire a licensed contractor or environmental consultant concerning the best way to proceed. The typical recommendation involves the removal of the tank. Also, get certificates of insurance verifying the contractor's workers compensation and general liability insurance coverage before any major work begins.
  • If soil or groundwater contamination is found during excavation, remember that you are responsible for reporting this to the local environmental government agency.

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Copyright, 2008. International Risk Management Institute, Inc.

International Risk Management Institute