Avoiding the Cost of an Oil Spill

3rd September 2018 | Fuelfighter
Reading time: 3 minutes

Autumn is just around the corner and many households will be starting to get more home heating oil delivered to their properties. Oil leaks and spillages are an unfortunate and costly occurrence so we’ve put together some tips to help you prevent such a situation in advance of purchasing more heating oil for the colder weather.

Oil tanks can leak for a number of reasons, such as a failure in the main body of the tank, tank equipment, or the fuel feed lines, due to either damage or general wear and tear. Oil tanks have an expected working life of around 20 years and using them beyond this time will increase the risk of your tank failing and resulting in a leak.

It is the responsibility of the person who stores the oil to ensure that any leaks or spills are dealt with appropriately so it’s essential that you have insurance cover in place. It is recommended that your insurance not only covers damage to your own property, but also that of your neighbours property and any impact on the environment. If you don’t have insurance in place you would need to hire a specialist contractor to deal with the situation, which can be a costly expense.

In the event of an oil leak or spill, it’s important that you call your insurance company straight away and where necessary report the incident to the Environment Agency.

How Can You Tell if You’ve Got a Leak?

A leak won’t necessarily be noticeable straight away, which is why it’s important to regularly check your tank and looks for signs of wear and tear or damage. Spotting a leak quickly can save you time, money and reduce the damage to your property and the environment.

There are however some obvious signs to watch out for:

  • A strong smell of oil either inside or outside your property.
  • Black stains on the tank support or on the surrounding area.
  • Dead plants or grass close to the tank or its pipework.
  • An unexpected increase in the amount of heating oil you are using.

Suggestions for What to Do if You Have a Leak

  • Switch off the oil supply at your tank.
  • If possible and safe to do so, try to locate the source of the leak.
  • Call your insurance company to notify them and start the process for making a claim.
  • Consider whether your oil tank needs to be emptied – your insurance company or local oil company can usually help you with this.
  • Arrange for a competent person to make the necessary repairs before using your tank again. Your insurance company will usually organise a specialist contractor to assess the situation and recommend remedial works.
  • If the leak could affect a nearby stream or water way, it is important that you contact the Environment Agency as a matter of urgency.
  • Try to contain the oil by using an oil spillage kit. Never try to wash the oil away as this can make the problem worse.
  • Try to prevent any oil from entering nearby drains by blocking its flow with earth, sand or commercial oil absorbent products.
  • Keep children and pets away from the affected area.

How to Prevent Spills and Leaks

  • Ensure your tank is compliant with building control regulations and is in a suitable location as far away as possible from waterways and sources of water supplies.
  • Ensure your tank is manufactured to OFTEC standards.
  • Keep your tank well maintained and ensure it is inspected annually by an OFTEC registered technician.
  • Carry out regular visual inspections of your tank – check for signs of wear and tear or damages, such as corrosion or bulging.
  • Familiarise yourself with where your underground pipework is located so that you can prevent damage from activities such as gardening.

Before the cold weather arrives, now is a great time to have your boiler checked and carry out any necessary repairs in time for Winter. Technicians are always in higher demand during the cold season, and you don’t want to risk being without heating oil if you experience a problem. Click here more information on arranging a service, or finding a local OFTEC technician.

It’s also useful to purchase a domestic oil spillage kit and keep a copy of your insurers guide to dealing with spillages and leaks close by in case of emergencies.

Oil leaks and spillages not only cause financial loss and damage to property, they can also have a serious impact on the environment. Did you know that just 2 litres of oil could seriously pollute the amount of fresh water needed to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool?

If you have any queries regarding oil leaks and spillages, or your oil tank please visit the Environment Agency or OFTEC for further information. For more tips and advice from Fuelfighter click here.