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Preventive Measures a Homeowner Can Take to Help Stop Residential Fuel Oil Spills
1998 Update
by Craig Arquette

Homeowners should visually inspect their fuel oil tanks every three months. The following is a homeowner's self inspection checklist to determine if there's a problem with their heating oil tank. If you answer YES to any of these questions, you should call the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe's Environment office, or your fuel oil dealer for assistance.

  • Are the tank legs unstable or on a shaky foundation?
  • Are there any signs of rust, wet spots, or excessive dents on the tanks surface?
  • Are there any drips or signs of leakage around the filter or valves?
  • Do the oil lines between the tank and the furnace run either under concrete or aboveground without being encased in a protective tubing?
  • Is there danger of snow or ice falling on the tank?
  • Is the tank vent clogged or restricted because of ice, snow, insect nests? (Screened vents can be used to prevent insect nest problems.)
  • Is the overfill whistle silent when the tank is being filled? (Ask your delivery person.)
  • Are there signs of spills around the fill pipe or the vent pipe? (Ask your delivery person.)
  • Is the fuel-level gauge cracked, stuck, frozen, or are there signs of oil around it?
  • Are the filler and vent lines made out of plastic instead of black or galvanized iron? Some plastic lines can shatter or break in extremely cold weather.
  • Is the inside diameter of the fill pipe less then 2"?
  • Is the inside diameter of the vent pipe less then 1"?
  • Are you using more oil than normal?
  • Is the vent pipe missing or not connected to the tank?
  • Can you smell fuel odors long after a delivery is made?

Make sure your fuel delivery person knows where your fuel intake pipe is located. If there are any pipes leading into the basement that serve no purpose, they should be removed immediately. This should prevent the delivery person from accidentally filling your basement with fuel oil. Tanks that are stored outside should be kept at least three quarters full during the summer. This will prevent water from entering the tank through condensation. This will minimize corrosion from the inside of the tank.

Accidents will happen, despite your best efforts to prevent them. In the event of a spill at your residence, you should notify the Environment office. The Environment office has equipment to control a spill. The main priority in the cleanup of a spill is to contain it. This will help minimize the impact of the spill to the environment and to your neighbors.