New Hampshire’s Fuel Oil Storage Tank Programs

New Hampshire’s Fuel Oil Storage Tank Programs

On-Premise-Use Fuel Oil Tanks, Safetank and the Fuel Oil Discharge Cleanup Fund

New Hampshire is one of four states in the U.S. where heating oil dominates as a source of fuel for residential properties. The number of homes using heating oil is 47 percent compared to 20% for natural gas and propane at 14%. With such a large number of oil storage tanks in the state, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) developed the On-Premise-Use Fuel Oil Tank Program to make homeowners aware of the condition of their heating oil tanks.

The goal of the program is to reduce the number of leaks caused by neglected oil tanks. Home heating oil tanks are not subject to the same NHDES regulations that apply to regulated fuel storage tanks located at many commercial properties so there is no oversight. Instead home owners are urged to follow tank installation and maintenance standards to prevent future leaks, and be eligible to receive state funding assistance.

In New Hampshire, heating oil tank installation standards can be found in the state statute, the state Fire Code and DES "Best Management Practices for the Installation and Upgrading of On-Premise-Use Heating Oil Tanks," 2008 edition. Tank owners must have achieved compliance by July 1, 2015 to achieve eligibility. Typical insurance policies do not provide coverage for oil spill cleanup costs. Even homeowners with comprehensive coverage will find there are exclusions like “pollution from fuel system” or that an oil spill or leak is not a "named peril" will not likely be covered. To fill this coverage void, the New Hampshire Fuel Oil Discharge Cleanup (FOD) Fund provides reimbursement to homeowners for cleanup costs, incurred by heating oil tank leaks. The FOD program is funded by a 1 cent/gallon tax on home heating oil.

In addition, a “Safetank” program is available to low-income homeowners for replacement of oil tanks that are not in compliance or at risk of leaking. The Safetank program, which provides up to $1,500 for oil tank replacement, has been very successful in preventing leaks. There is also a risk assessment chart used by the Safetank program to determine priority for replacing deteriorated heating oil tanks.

Heating oil tank installed on a driveway without bollards

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

Which components of a heating oil tank typically require upgrades?

The fuel supply and return lines are important components of a tank installation. If your oil tank was installed prior to 1990 these lines were probably copper lines installed inside metal conduit. This configuration is no longer used because metal will corrode when it comes in contact with cement. A buried oil line can be a hidden source of a leak. Even a small drip could cause contamination to your soil, air quality and drinking water.

Which codes make up the New Hampshire state fire code?

The Life Safety Code 2009, Saf-C 6000 Rules, and the Uniform Fire Code NFPA1, 2009 edition. (RSA 153)

Saf-C 6011.01 Compliance Required.

  1. All persons installing, causing to be installed, modifying, repairing or maintaining oil burning equipment shall comply with the requirements of NFPA 31, “Standard for the Installation of Oil Burning Equipment”, 2006 edition (NFPA 31), except as modified in Saf-C 6012.02.

Why are the “Best Management Practices” required in addition to the fire codes?

The Best Management Practices or BMPs address tank fabrication and handling, outdoor tanks, indoor tanks, oil tank piping, underground tanks, and abandonment of tanks. The most important of the BMP requirements focus on outdoor tank installations. The steps outlined in this section are critical for preventing oil spills. New Hampshire winters include freezing rain, sleet and snow storms that can damage outdoor tanks and piping if not properly protected. Frost heaves, falling ice from roofs and tree limbs are capable of severing supply line connections and creating a spill. Exposure to road salt accelerates rust buildup when a tank is located next to a driveway or garage. Corrosion increases the risk of compromising the steel and welds. BMP requirements ensure that outdoor tanks and lines are installed properly so they are protected from the elements.

Roth heating oil tank installed outside a home

What are the reporting requirements for oil spills in New Hampshire?

The person/party responsible for the operation of any oil facility, carrier, or vessel that discharges oil in violation of this chapter shall immediately notify the DES Waste Management Division. Any person who fails to give such notice shall be guilty of a misdemeanor if a natural person, or guilty of a felony if any other person.

How much will the Fuel Oil Discharge Cleanup (FOD) Fund cover during oil spill cleanups?

The Fuel Oil Discharge Cleanup (FOD) Fund will reimburse the costs of onsite and third-party claims up to $500,000. The fund covers tasks like Level I site investigations, site drawings, groundwater quality assessments, soil disposal, permits and reports. The reimbursement also covers damage to insured property and living expenses if the homeowner must temporarily move out of the home because of the spill.

How do I obtain Fuel Oil Discharge Cleanup (FOD) Fund coverage?

Home owners should contact a fuel oil dealer or tank installation company to request a tank inspection. The inspector will verify that the oil tank and lines are in conformance with the BMPs and provide a written report.

My oil tank has leaked. What steps should I take?

  • If your oil tank has leaked you must report it to the NH Department of Environmental Services.
  • Hire an environmental remediation company to perform the oil spill cleanup.
  • Contact your insurance company and request if coverage is available for any remediation costs that you may incur. If you don’t have coverage then you will need a notarized letter stating this.

Self-Inspection Checklist

A heating oil tank is one of those appliances that are “out of sight and out of mind”. Basement oil tanks are not a heating system component that homeowners often think about. But it should be a priority. Don’t rely on your heating oil company to check your tank before it is filled. You are responsible for the safety of your home and the environment. Download the NHDES “Self-Inspection Checklist for Basement and Outdoor Home Heating Oil Tanks” fact sheet and note the condition of your tank. If you have questions about the items on the checklist, use the contact us form or call 1-800-628-8260 and one of our staff can help you.

A Granby heating oil tank installed inside a containment tub

For more information about On-Premise-Use Fuel Oil Storage Tanks, Safetank and the Fuel Oil Discharge Cleanup Fund contact:

N. H. Department of Environmental Services
(603) 271-3577
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