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Huntingdon County EMA reminds all property owners who use home heating oil tanks located aboveground (outside or in the basement) that spills or leaks of heating oil can occur during the tanks’ lifetime.

When released indoors spills or leaks of heating oil can damage both a home and its contents, contaminate the soil, creation the potential for fire, cause health problems, and subject the property owner to cleanup costs that may not be covered by typical homeowners insurance policies.  When released to the environment heating oil can also pollute drinking water supplies, contaminate soils and expose the tank owner to liability if neighboring properties are affected by the release.  But with proper tank checks and care spills and leaks can be avoided.

The best way to minimize the adverse affects and costs of heating oil release is to prevent them from occurring.  Routine inspections, maintenance and repairs are the keys to prevention.  Any property owner who uses home heating oil is urged to check their tanks’ condition.  Routinely inspect the exterior of your tank and all attached equipment. 

Many times leaks can be easily detected and corrected before a large spill or environmental damage occurs.  Tanks and equipment should be checked for any corrosion, pitting, holes, leaking pipes, loose joints and lost fittings.  Tanks often rust from the inside out and corrosion failures may occur from water sitting at the bottom of the tank.  Heating oil tanks can also collapse leading to spills when the tank legs rust or the soild underneath settles due to the freezing and thawing cycle.. 

Aboveground tanks, including those outside and in a basement, should be installed on a concrete pad and secured to the floor.  Never place an aboveground tank directly on the soil.

If a spill or leak does occur from your tank, prompt action to stop, contain and clean up the released heating oil can greatly reduce or eliminate adverse impacts to property, health, and the environment.

There are several indications that a residential heating oil tank might be leaking or product has been spilled.  Those signs include soil saturated with heating oil; product vapors are in the soils or basement area; fuel is seeping into a basement area; it appears fuel consumption has suddenly increased and the furnace may be operating erratically.

If your residential heating oil leaks, call 9-1-1 for dispatch of the local fire company to assist with identifying the source of the release and help take steps to stop or contain the release; then begin cleanup which may include notifying Huntingdon County EMA and/or professionals to clean up the site.  Property owners may want to first notify their insurance company before hiring a contractor to see if any cleanup costs are covered.  Some insurance companies may want to approve a contractor as part of their policies.  Remember, it is the responsibility of the tank/ property owner take and complete all cleanup measures.  This includes being responsible for costs of emergency response and containment actions taken by the fire company and EMA (if needed) as provided for in the Huntingdon County Ordinance for Cost Recovery for Hazardous Materials Related Incidents, including petroleum (heating oil) spills.

The state Department of Environmental Protection should be notified of spills as well, and must be notified for larger spill amounts, spills that result on off-site contamination, spills that enter public water or wastewater systems, and spills that cause health problems.  By notifying the fire company and EMA of these types of spills, EMA can contact the state DEP for the tank/ property owner.  Otherwise it is the responsibility of the tank/property owner to notify the appropriate DEP regional office of the location and extent of the release.  The South-Central Region Office covers Huntingdon County and is located in Harrisburg.   The phone number is (717) 705-4705.

Huntingdon County EMA urges any tank/ property owner with any questions or concerns about their home heating oil tank condition to contact their heating oil supplier or furnace repair service.