Massachusetts home buyers should inquire about whether a home has an underground oil tank because of the potential environmental problems the tank may cause, if a leak occurs.
It isn't common for an underground oil tank to still be in use; however, over the years old underground oil tanks have been abandoned rather than removed when heating systems have been upgraded.
Leaks in underground oil tanks and associated piping are rare, but the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection estimates that every year about "several hundred" homes with underground tanks experience a leak. Oil leaks become much more likely for equipment as it begins to age beyond 10 to 15 years underground, but some tanks and piping have been known to be leak free for up to 50 years.
In order to avoid hazardous and costly environmental spills, the State of Massachusetts has many laws and regulations regarding underground oil tanks and the removal of such tanks.
Lenders may be hesitant to lend money to a borrower on a home with an underground storage tank because of the potential environmental hazards.
When an oil tank leaks it contaminates the soil around it. The oil can spread throughout the property and can even spread to another neighboring property. Eventually the oil could seep into the water table, contaminating the groundwater supply. A leaking tank has the potential to become a major environmental hazard and a very expensive problem to fix.
Potential home buyers would be wise to try to negotiate with sellers to remove underground oil tanks prior to closing. Home buyers may want to pass on a home with an underground oil tank. According to a brochure produced in 2008 by the State of Massachusetts about removing an underground oil tank, the cost of removal alone will cost between $1,000 and $2,500.
Those tanks that have oil leaking into the ground have much higher removal costs, sometimes reaching $100,000. When oil contaminates the soil, the soil has to be completely removed and hauled to a hazardous waste disposal site where it's burned to remove the fuel. Decontaminating the soil also involves the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), which also charges fees for processing the action. The Massachusetts DEP will issue a letter to the homeowner stating that the cleanup was completed satisfactorily.