Heating oil tank leaks can happen for any number of reasons. Whether it's a small leak or a large one, you'll have to do what you can to mitigate the issue as soon as possible. Here's what you should know about heating oil leaks, as well as what you should do if one occurs:
Is Your Heating Oil Tank in Danger of Leaking?
Leaks and spills can occur because of damage to the tank or overfilling it. The age and condition of your tank may play a role in spills as well. Older tanks may take on damage easier or have points of erosion where oil can leak out. Any small leak can turn into a spill given time.
Dangers of a heating oil tank leak
Heating oil isn't as toxic to people as stronger forms of petroleum-based liquids. However, breathing in heating oil fumes for too long can turn into a health hazard. Symptoms can start as dizziness, headaches, and nausea. Prolonged exposure to fumes can cause kidney and liver damage.
Leaking oil can poison the ground, wildlife, and water. If it gets into your drinking water, it can cause health hazards such as vomiting and diarrhea.
Signs of a Heating Oil Tank Leak
Signs you may have a tank leak can vary. The easiest way to tell is from observation. If you notice wet spots, oil on the ground or dripping from the tank, then you have a leak. Rust and signs of obvious age can also let you know your tank has the potential for a leak or spill.
These types of signs only apply to outside or basement oil tanks. If you have a buried or underground tank, you may not have any immediate indication of a leak or spill. As mentioned before, the smell of fumes can work as a good indicator in such cases.
What to do if there's a leak or spill
If you find signs of a leak or spill from your heating oil tank, you should take action immediately:
- Open any windows if it's a basement tank
- Turn off or remove all sources of flame or heat
- Clean up any small spills
- Use sawdust or litter to dry it up
- Clean the remaining stain with soap and water
- For large spills, call a professional
Avoid getting the oil on your skin, and throw away anything the oil soaked. You should also close vents so the fumes don't infiltrate the rest of your home. If you have a buried heating oil tank, then you need to call in a licensed tank removal service.
How to Prevent a Tank Leak or Spill
The best way to prevent a tank leak or spill is to have your tank filled by professionals. In addition, you should have your heating oil tank inspected yearly, or if you suspect a leak. The contractor will check with a soil sample to see if there's a cause for concern.
Make sure to give your outside or basement tank a visual inspection every so often as well. Mostly, a leak should prompt you to replace the heating oil tank. If you only patch it, a spill can still occur.