Are Heating Oil Tanks Regulated in Maryland?
Well, YES and NO. Let’s dive into that deeper and see what we are talking about.
If the property is in a commercial zone such as a gas station, office building, mechanic shop, or church, then YES. No matter what the situation, the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) regulates these tanks.
The MDE regulates any underground heating oil storage tank (UST) – whether heating oil, diesel fuel or gasoline.
So does that mean oil tanks at residential properties are not regulated?
Again, YES and NO.
The MDE does not NOT regulate aboveground heating oil storage tanks (ASTs). If the tank is buried at a residence, they do not regulate it UNLESS it is larger than 1100 gallons.
Oh good. So, if the buried oil tank at the house is 550 gallon in size then it’s unregulated. So I’m good to go, right?
Not so fast. Even if the tank is smaller but the licensed tank removal contractor (GreenTRAX) finds the tank is leaking and there is contaminated soil, then it is regulated by the MDE. Same goes for that aboveground heating oil tank at your house. If it has leaked, it’s under MDE’s purview and they will get involved in the cleanup of that as well.
So, that gives you the 10,000-foot-view of the tank situation. Next, we’ll look at some of the regulations & recommendations regarding residential USTs / ASTs.
Residential Oil Tank Regulations & Recommendations for Maryland
- Removal or properly abandonment of all out-of-order USTs i9s required; a licensed tank removal contractor must handle the job. You cannot have a plumber or HVAC contractor perform the work, nor can you have your friend with a backhoe perform the work (licenses are obtained through the MDE).
- In a technical sense then, you could say that residential tanks are regulated; the MDE relies on its licensed contractors to perform tank removals and abandonments according to their rules and standards. So, the licensed contractor has a responsibility to follow the rules and report, consult, and advise the MDE inspector. There are certain situations that arise during a tank project that would warrant this.
- ANY UST that is out-of-service or that you stop using MUST be removed or properly abandoned within 180 days.
- Any tank that requires removal should receive it. If a tank abandonment is attempted and found to be leaking, the tank has to be removed anyway.
- A tank abandonment does NOT mean you: stop using it and leave it in place; just dump sand in fill pipe; or cut the fill pipe off and forget about it.
- A legal tank abandonment requires:
- top of the tank be cut open
- tank to be thoroughly cleaned
- soil below the tank checked for contamination
- tank filled 100% with an inert material like gravel, sand or concrete
- piping removed
- photos taken
- closure report provided to owner
- All tank removals and abandonments REQUIRE a soil sample analysis at a lab.
- Most home buyers or real estate agents will require the removal of any buried tank 20 years or older before settlement.
- More and more banks, mortgage companies, and home insurance companies are now requiring the removal of buried tanks.
- If a residential tank leaks, you must:
- notify the MDE
- take soil samples
- remove contaminated soil
- haul away and dispose of at a proper facility
- If oil has contaminated the soil on property with well water, you must send a water sample to a lab.
- A closure report must be provided to the owner when job is complete. The report must include:
- certificate of tank destruction
- soil sample results from lab tests
- a narrative of work performed
- a liquid waste manifest
- soil disposal receipts if necessary
- If a tank has a broken whistle/vent pipe, the oil delivery company cannot fill the tank.
- If tank has a broken fill pipe the delivery company cannot fill it
- The tank cannot be filled if there is visual evidence of a leak.
- If you have a tank leak and it affects neighbor’s property, it is YOUR responsibility to pay for cleanup and remediation costs as well as restoration.
- If a tank is more than 10% buried, it is a buried tank.
- You cannot just leave the old aboveground tank in-place if you have a new aboveground tank installed.
- If you tank or soil fails a contamination test, you must:
- report it to the MDE
- must be pump the tank out right away
- remove the tank
- perform remediation
- (note: GreenTRAX NEVER recommends a tank test or soil test be performed on a tank close to or over 20 years old. It is a waste of money)
- The lifespan of a tank is generally 20 years.
- It is the SELLER’S responsibility, not the buyer’s, to prove the tank is not leaking and there is no contaminated soil. We usually recommend to just remove the tank; most buried tanks in MD are over 20-years-old.
- If you are a BUYER’S real estate agent, NEVER EVER let your client buy the house with the old buried oil tank still in the ground. You do not want them to have to potentially spend thousands of dollars as soon as they move in to the house removing and cleaning a leaking tank
- If you are a SELLER’S agent, here’s a best practice: If the tank needs removal and replacing with an AST, do so BEFORE listing the property.
- If you are having water or sludge build-up problems in the tank, it is an indication the tank is old or needing replaced.
- You cannot just have anyone remove your aboveground tank from the basement or outside the house. Most people do not know how to handle the oil disposal from the tank. It is best to call a professional tank company such as GreenTRAX to pump out the tank and remove it. That way you know the oil and the tank are disposed of properly.
There are many more rules, regulations, best practices, and recommendations regarding tanks, but this will give you some basic information. If you have additional questions please call GreenTRAX 410-439-1085. We are here to help you.