Many homes have oil-based heating systems. In these systems, you will usually have an oil tank outside your home with pipes leading to the heating system within your home. Oil is, of course, a dangerous and corrosive substance when not handled properly. This is why an oil tank leak can be a very serious worry. Even a small leak can lead to damage, injury, or worse. However, don’t panic!
We have spoken to the professionals in the industry to find out exactly what steps you need to take when your oil tank is leaking. This handy guide should take away any worry and help you feel safe in the knowledge that you know what to do in the event of an oil leak. Read on to find out everything we’ve learned.
Why Is Your Tank Leaking?
First of all, let’s discuss common issues that cause oil tank leaks. We spoke to Keith, an oil heating specialist from simpletankservices.com. He told us about some of the issues that most often lead to oil tank leaks. The most common problem that leads to domestic leaks and oil spills is components failing due to old age or improper servicing. Lots of these things can be prevented by having regular services and check-ups done on your heating system and tank. An engineer will be able to spot any potential faults or damaged parts within your tank and piping. They will replace or repair these parts immediately to help prevent leaks from occurring.
Of course, sometimes, accidents happen, and unfortunately, they are impossible to predict. Many accidents or events could lead to oil spills, such as sudden freezing weather affecting pipes or even a sudden structural fault in the home leading to burst pipes. It is best to keep your tank itself protected by placing a barrier, such as a wall, around it ensuring it can’t be affected by debris, people, or vehicles. Discourage any children from playing with or near your oil tank for their safety and ensuring they don’t accidentally break anything.
As we have mentioned, oil is classed as a hazardous substance. Anyone who owns uses or distributes hazardous substances has a responsibility – or duty of care – to ensure that it is stored and used safely. This means, in many cases, any damages caused by oil spills will be classed as your fault if it is proven that you did not respond to damaged, old, or leaking tanks quickly, effectively, or responsibly. If the worst should happen and your oil tank breaks, causing damage to others’ homes, local wildlife, or property, then you may be held responsible.
Call Your Insurance Company
It is important to be sure (before any leak occurs) that your home oil tank is covered in your home insurance policy. Some insurers will not automatically insure the oil tank or its contents, so you must tell them that you have an oil tank in your home. This could be a real lifesaver if the unthinkable does happen as the insurer will cover the cost of any damages to your home as well as paying for the replacement parts needed to fix the tank. This could be very costly without insurance, especially if the whole tank or extensive piping needs replacing.
Locate The Leak (And Try To Stop It)
One of the very first things you need to do is establish exactly where the leak is coming from and, if you can, switch off your oil supply at the tank. This may stop the leak if it’s in the piping or outflow from the tank. However, if the tank itself is damaged, you may be able to stop it in other ways. If it’s a small crack or break, try covering it with sealant or something sticky. Only attempt to intervene if you feel completely safe to do so. If the leak is flowing fast and seems dangerous, don’t get too close.
If the leak is slow and gradual, but you are unable to stem the flow, place towels and buckets underneath the leak to stop as much oil as possible from spilling onto the ground. These items, though, will be too oily to ever use again for anything else, so be prepared to dispose of them safely. Another trick for slow leaks is to use absorbent, disposable materials such as sand or cat litter to help absorb oil and stop it from spreading further or seeping into the earth.
Call A Professional
Obviously, the next move needs to be calling in a professional engineer or your fuel supplier. It is likely that your fuel supplier will have on-call engineers for these sorts of emergencies and will therefore be able to send someone to fix your tank quickly. They will drain any remaining oil from the tank and help you figure out how to fix it. Often, with simple faults, the tank can be replaced quickly. However, if the damage is major, they may need to order in a whole new tank or larger parts. This could mean a delay (with no heating) and a long process of repairs.
Spilled Oil Issues
Finally, you’ll have to deal with any spilled or spread oil. You need to check if it has spread into the home, the earth, other people’s properties, or into drains. In the case of the latter, you must immediately inform the water supplier in your area. If you think the water may be contaminated, you should alert your neighbors and avoid drinking any tap water.
If the oil has spread onto common lands or into the boundaries of other people’s properties, then you need to assess how much and how deep it has spread. If only a small area, you can dig up the affected soil and dispose of it correctly. Whatever you do, ensure that you take photos and record everything you’ve done. This could be crucial for insurance and in case of any disputes.
These are the key reasons for and ways to deal with oil leaks. Remember to make sure your oil tank is serviced at regular intervals and keep the contact number for your energy supplier handy in case of emergencies. After all, it’s your oil, and you must look after it properly.