Old underground tank

I’ve only come across one here, and the buyer already knew about it…today’s inspection, house built in 1967, tank filler and vent in side yard. When I open the cap, got a strong “old” oil smell, can see liquid down in the pipe. Dipped a screwdriver in, had dirty brown liquid. The owner bought the house 2 years ago, FHA appraiser apparently didnt mention it. I’m protecting my client, advised him during the inspection that the tank needed evaluated for oil present, leakage into the ground, etc. Anyone have good verbiage for a narrative report?

A buried oil tanks was present. A licensed qualified contractor should be obtained for further evaluation and removal options.


We actually have a bunch in this area, almost all of them abandoned. I had one last year still in use, for an oil fired furnace. Our State has no mandatory requirements for removal.

Explain the presence of an underground storage tank, the fact that it’s concealed, may be leaking or has already leaked, that fuel oil is still inside the tank, soil contamination may have occurred, etc. etc.


Possible narrative:

Apparent underground oil tank(s) are present on property. I observed the filler pipe and vent pipe in the side yard. I opened the filler pipe and smelled an oil odor and could see liquid down the pipe. I stuck my screwdriver down the pipe and it came out coated with a dirty brown oily smelling liquid.

I recommend that the tank and ground be assessed for any present or past leakage by a qualified tank removal professional. It is imperative that this be done before the close of your inspection contingency period as costs can be substantial. A phase one environmental study may be necessary to ascertain any costs associated with the removal and potential clean up of any potential oil spillage. Also, I recommend that the tank(s) be removed.

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My standard boilerplate below:

Possible Major Concern, Investigate: We observed evidence that suggests an underground fuel storage tank exists. Assessing the condition of an underground fuel storage tank (including whether or not it is leaking and/or if soil contamination has occurred) is beyond the scope of a home inspection. In recent years, many home insurance companies have stopped writing home insurance policies for properties with underground fuel storage tanks, due to the leakage risk and potential for a costly environmental cleanup (in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars). If there is a fuel storage tank on your property you have a legal responsibility to properly maintain it and to clean up any spills or leaks that may occur. You are also responsible under the Environmental Protection Act for reporting any leak or spill from your tank that causes, or could cause, property damage or health, safety or environmental problems. We recommend that you further investigate this with the homeowner, your home insurance company, and a registered heating contractor before close of escrow.

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Buried oil tanks if abandoned can be removed or filled in place with sand if there is no leakage.

Check the EPA site for additional information: