Underground Oil Storage Tanks


After almost three decades, a program to remove thousands of toxic oil tanks from North Shore properties has had marginal success, leaving homeowners -- and the environment -- at serious risk.


Residential underground storage tanks, large metal containers that were once used to hold heating oil, are buried next to thousands of houses in North and West Vancouver. The tanks, many of which were designed to last only 25 years, are inclined to leak toxic oil products into the surrounding soil.


Municipalities have been encouraging their removal since 1989, when the province included their disposal in the fire code. But after nearly 30 years, only a small number of the containers have been taken out. That means the ground around many North Vancouver properties is growing more toxic every year, and the costs are now being felt by the environment and by homeowners. The oil, a carcinogen, sits on top of water, eventually coming to the surface. It can contaminate households by being tracked in on shoes; and it can migrate into neighboring properties and into watercourses. 


A corroded tank, usually buried eight feet deep, can also become a dangerous sinkhole. Most tanks were installed between the 1920s and 1960s. When people switched to natural gas, most doing so by the 1970s, many simply abandoned the old tanks. In the absence of proper installation records some property owners do not even know they are there. 


Prospective Buyers will no longer take on the responsibility of a potential buried tank - yet everyone continues to feel the sting of the public's inaction.  Removal of the tanks is now required at the time homes are sold and when insurance is renewed.  Straight forward removal of a tank that has not leaked costs around $3,000 to $5,000, including an environmental assessment, typically required in most Municipalities. But for a leaking tank, the cost can be much higher. Cleanup jobs range from $15,000 to $30,000 - to, well, "the sky's the limit".  


For more information on the consequences of unremdiated oil tanks, click here.


If you think you have an oil tank on your property, please contact a qualified

environmental consultant.


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