Underground Oil Tank Removal

Underground Heating Oil Tank Removals and Remediation

SIE has completed over 100 heating oil tank removal programs in Victoria, BC since 2011. Residential heating oil storage tanks have been installed and used in Canada for over 60 years. Several thousand tanks were installed in the Greater Victoria region going back to the 1940’s. By 1992, a natural gas line was linked from the mainland and as such began the conversation from heating oil to natural gas for some home owners. The aging tanks can deteriorate over time and cause oil leaks into nearby streams and creeks in the Greater Victoria area. Heating oil tanks represent a risk to the local environmental and also potential significant liability to homeowners. The BC Environmental Management Act can require the homeowner of a property to pay for contamination to a neighbouring property including impacts the local streams and creeks. Needless to say, remediation cost can be high pending migration outreach. Property transfers also trigger the need to remediate properties as a potential condition of sale, for homeowner insurance purposes, or as a requirement of financial institutions.

There are two types of heating oil tanks: aboveground tanks (ASTs – typically found in basements or outside of a home) and buried underground storage tanks (USTs). Many of these ASTs and USTs are abandoned or unused, as alternative heating sources – such as natural gas, propane, and electricity – have become available. USTs and in many cases ASTs are a concern because they are a potential source of contamination of soil, surface water (streams and creeks) and groundwater. They also pose a fire and explosion hazard under certain conditions. Some of the reasons a homeowner may remove their heating oil storage tanks are as follows:

    1. (1) Due diligence purposes (avoid future liability and stress)
    1. (2) Satisfy a lender, potential purchaser, insurance agent, and/or local government
    1. (3) Remove a potential high risk condition on their property (i.e. historical spill)

The current BC Fire Code stipulates that heating oil tanks no longer in use (over 2 years) require removal from the ground and assessment for potential contamination. Some municipalities have guidelines or bylaws in place regarding heating oil tanks. The District of Oak Bay Fire Department has guidelines stating that “all underground oil tanks being inerted or removed must be inspected and documented. At any time that site contamination is discovered, reported or becomes evident during the inerting or removal of an underground oil storage tank, the B.C. Ministry of Environment (MOE) will be contacted by Oak Bay Fire Department. All contaminated sites become the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Environment as the Authority Having Jurisdiction. For any contaminated sites, the Ministry (MOE) will require that property owners retain the services of an Environmental Consultant to investigate and remediate the site and report their findings and remediation activities to MOE”. The District of Saanich bylaw No. 9265 states the following in regards to heating oil underground storage tanks: “When an underground storage fuel tank is permanently withdrawn from service, or has been out of service for 2 years, whichever comes first, the owner must:

    1. (a) Notify the Fire Chief in writing;
      (b) Remove flammable liquid and combustible liquid from the fuel tank, connecting piping and dispensing equipment;
      (c) Purge fuel tank of flammable or explosive vapours and remove the fuel tank from the ground;
      (d) Where evidence of soil contamination is evident, provide in writing confirmation of soil testing by a certified environmental engineer as to the condition of the soil surrounding the in-ground fuel tank will be required;
      (e) Remove the piping from the ground or purge it of flammable or combustible liquid and vapours and permanently seal the ends of the piping by capping or plugging; and
      (f) Replace the soil around and under the fuel tank if it has been contaminated with flammable or combustible liquid with clean fill in a manner acceptable to the Fire Chief

Other municipalities within Greater Victoria have similar bylaws and/or guidelines or they simply refer to the BC Fire Code for guidance.


Residential Underground Heating Oil Storage Tanks Fact Sheet

South Island Environmental F.A.Q.

District of Oak Bay Guidelines Regarding Underground Heating Oil Tanks

District of Saanich Bylaw Regarding Underground Heating Tanks

SPILL EMERGENCY CONTACT Provincial Emergency Program (PEP) at 1-800-663-3456