Underground Fuel Storage Tank Hazards and Inspection.

Underground Fuel Storage Tank Hazards and Inspection.

“Inspectors should identify whether a property contains an underground storage tank, whether it is in service or inactive, and what it holds, and note these details in his report. The inspector should then encourage the property owner to test it for leaks, especially if testing has never been performed and the tank is old.”

Nick…how do you reconcile this statement with our SOP which says that inspectors are not required to inspect for underground tanks?

Yes, please reconsider that and this:

In summary, buried oil tanks should be identified by the inspector and tested for leaks, which are serious environmental, safety and financial risks.

I see no conflict. Our residential SOP is for home inspections, not underground fuel storage tank inspections.

An article on inspecting for mold, for instance, wouldn’t conflict with our SOP which says that home inspectors don’t test for mold either.

An article on inspecting for termites also wouldn’t conflict with our SOP which says that home inspectors don’t provide WDO inspections.

A “home” inspection is a very particular type of inspection (as defined by our residential SOP), and a “mold” inspection is a very different type of inspection, and a “radon” inspection is a different type of inspection, and a “septic” inspection is a different type of inspection… etc.

I’ll touch it up though by reiterating the type of inspector in the body of the text so that it doesn’t rely solely on the title of the article.


“Touch” this up, too, while you’re at it…

“The liability connected with leaking buried tanks can be huge for the** homeowner **or the prospective buyer. Inspectors should inform their clients during a buyer’s inspection that they should have buried tanks tested before they buy, lest a leaking tank becomes their responsibility.”

That sure sounds like a home inspection to me…but then, who knows anymore?

Good thinking. Done. The article was supposed to lean toward commercial property inspections. I cleaned it up. Thanks.

As a person who was faced with the real possibility of an environmental lawsuit on a commercial property I had inspected nearly 5-years prior, I cannot emphasize enouth the need to remove ALL references to the discovery of buried tanks whatsoever.

Inspectors should NOT be expected to look for, be responsible for, or reporrt on what is not made known to them at the time of the inspection, by the realtor, property owner, or client. PERIOD, END OF REPORT.

If there is any ambiguity, as with our current SOP, the spectre of due dilligence comes into play. How good of a job did the inspector REALLY do?

In my case, there was what appeared to be a breather at the side of the building, which was capped and had no distinct marking on it. There was no sign of a filler whatsoever anywhere near this thing. There was also construction equipment and materials which completely filled an area under an exterior carport area. The client kicked out the home improvement company years ago, and made them remove all materials.

Low and behold… there was a filler in the ground 20 feet from the building. Over the course of his ownership the client knew this, saw this, and never mentioned it. He never had a Phase 1 or Phase II environmental assessment performed, nor did the bank require one. On top of all else, there were absolutely NO indications that any of the heating sytsems in this building had ever run on fuel oil. One system was over 20-years old.

It became an issue as the inspector discovered the tank 5-years later and the client didnt want to pay for anything.

I was blamed.

Luckily, I crafted a letter to the client’s attorney that likely set his hair on fire.

I ducked a large bullet on this one…

Bottom line is that the return on investment for any tank inspection activity is crushed by the potential liability.

I would like to see our SOP changed to state, in no uncertain terms, that we are not required to investigate, look for, or report on any of this. Make it crystal clear that it is simply not in our purview. Leave no doubt.


Don’t go looking for buried oil tanks…DISCLAIM THEM FROM THE BEGINNING! That is something for the environmental engineers!!!

I found one a couple months ago, from doing a 4.5+ hour inspection on a 2,500 sq ft house but that was from checking every nook and cranny and reviewing the outside of the property again before I left it.

Joe Farsetta writes:

Our residential SOP already states in no uncertain terms…

2.2 II. I: The inspector is not required to inspect underground items.
2.6. II. N: The inspector is not required to inspect any underground or concealed fuel supply systems.
3.2. III: The inspectors are not required to inspect underground items such as, but not limited to, underground storage tanks or other indications of their presence, whether abandoned or actively used.

An inspection occurs when we have found it.

I want it clearly stated that we are not required to investigate for the presence of…

This would include is there were hidden and abandoned copper fuel tank lines in the basement, holes that were plugged in foundation walls, “oil burner emergency switch” plates in the basement, and so on.

Our verbiage states that we are not required to INSPECT it, but not that it is not our responsibility to LOOK FOR IT.

Give me suggested language and where it should go and I’ll run it by Mark.