Residential Underground Oil Tank Removals

Residential Underground Oil Tank Removals

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At CommTank, we take pride in offering the most professional underground tank removal service to our customers. It starts with an honest appraisal by CommTank’s trained oil tank specialists. We’ve serviced thousands of underground oil tanks, giving us the experience to tackle the toughest and tightest jobs around and the ability to stand behind our work.

Since 1994, we’ve successfully removed underground storage tanks for thousands of residents and businesses. Whether you have a 275-gallon tank or a 2,000-gallon tank, you can count on CommTank to get the job done right.

"Jim and I will be the first to recommend, without hesitation, CommTank to anyone who needs your services." – Jim and Joan Sullivan, Chestnut Hill, MA

Providing Complete Underground Oil Tank Removal Services

Mini excavator is pulling an oil tank from the ground.

CommTank technician removes a 500-gallon underground oil tank.

Our fleet of trucks provide the removal of buried tanks to Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Southern Maine. During our 26 years in business, we developed relationships with plumbing, heating oil delivery, and real estate companies that rely on us to provide prompt reliable tank replacement services to their clients.  Without these partnerships, we would not be the full-service aboveground tank removal and oil tank replacement company that we are today.

If you are purchasing a new home and there’s a question of whether a buried oil tank was removed, we offer underground tank locating services using advanced active and passive transmission technology to determine exactly where a tank is located. Testing the soil and groundwater is another tool that helps a buyer establish if contaminated soil exists at a residential property. These services help determine if a buried oil tank was properly maintained and/or removed.

How much does it cost to remove a buried oil tank?

In today’s market, we know there are lots of options for underground tank removal services. That’s why we work as efficiently as possible, to keep our prices fair and affordable. Using the most advanced tools and technology, and by taking a proven step-by-step approach driven by consistent standards, CommTank can often complete projects in a fraction of the time you’d expect, which saves money, and keeps customers happy.

The removal cost of a residential underground oil tank ranges from $2,000 and $4,000 depending on size. Typical residential tank sizes are 275, 500, or 1,000-gallons.

"Your company is one of the best we have ever hired from start to finish." – William J. Lewis, Rehoboth, MA

How do you remove an underground fuel tank?

CommTank technician operating a Kubota while excavating an underground oil tank

Excavating an underground oil tank next to a foundation.

Underground oil tank removals require knowledge of the fuel type in the tank, and proper handling of the tank’s vapors because they may be highly flammable. Prior to removing your underground storage tank, our licensed, knowledgeable technicians will inspect your property to determine what’s needed to prepare the site. If necessary, we obtain permits from your local fire department to make sure the property is “dig-safe,” since underground oil tank removals typically involve uncovering and removing the tanks with excavation equipment. Utility companies then mark the property to ensure safe excavating. Our crews pump out the remaining fuel, evacuate the fuel vapor, cut open the tank, clean the sediment from the tank bottom, hoist the tank out of the ground with an excavator, and place it on the trailer to be brought to a licensed tank disposal/recycler.

It takes about 4-6 hours to remove an underground storage tank, longer for very large tanks.

In ground oil tank is removed from the front yard of this home.

A buried oil tank is removed from this front yard.

Before we fill the tank’s “grave” with clean soil and evenly grade and compact it, we’ll sample the soil and groundwater around the tank. Your fire department will typically inspect the tank grave before giving approval to backfill. For underground tank removals in Massachusetts, the state requires that a measurement for contamination be taken within 24 hours of removing an underground tank. CommTank will field-test the soil surrounding the tank for no extra charge at the time of the tank removal.

After the job is complete, CommTank guarantees to leave your property as clean as we found it. Since using excavation equipment for underground oil tank removals typically tears up grass, we bring sheets of plastic or wood to cover the lawn to protect it. And, our crews are experienced at landscaping and mason work, so we can restore or limit damage done to shrubs, gardens, rock walls and patios.

Permits

Permits are acquired by CommTank and filled out at the Fire Department Headquarters. In Massachusetts, the Form FP-292 is required for the underground storage tank removal and transportation to a disposal yard. The Fire Department sends a representative to witness the removal and inspect the tank.

In New Hampshire, individual cities and towns create their own permits and requirements.  Many specify that work conforms to minimum requirements as outlined by NFPA 1, NFPA 30, NFPA 326 and/or NFPA 327 editions as adopted by NH State Fire Code SAF-C-G000 and local ordinances. Before the start of each project, CommTank’s staff checks with your local building or fire department to see if additional paperwork is required.

Fire Department Permit Fees

City/TownAddressPhone NumberUnderground Tank Removal Permit Fee
Boston*1010 Massachusetts Ave, 02118617-343-3628$25
Worcester25 Meade Street, 01610508-799-1822$100 (up to 1,500-gallons)
Cambridge491 Broadway, 02139617-349-4918$103
Brockton42 Pleasant Street, 02301508-583-2933$300
Malden1 Sprague Street, 02148781-397-7385$50.00 (up to 1,000-gallons)
Newton**169 Jackson Road, 02459617-796-2230$100
Waltham175 Lexington Street, 02452$50
Attleboro100 Union Street, 02703774-203-1922$100
Quincy40 Quincy Avenue, 02169617-376-1015$50 (up to 275-gallons); $100 (over 250-gallons)
Danvers64 High Street, 01923978-774-2425$50
New Bedford868 Pleasant Street 02740508-991-6120$125
Manchester, NHBuilding Dept. City Hall Plaza603-669-2256$200
Bedford, NH55 Constitution Drive, 03110603-472-3838$50
Nashua, NH229 Main Street, 03060603-589-3460$50
Portsmouth, NH1 Junkins Avenue, 03801603-610-7243$7/$1000 cost per construction
Dover, NH3 Walpole St. 02030508-785-113035
Concord, NH115R North State Street, 03301603-225-8651$50 (275-gallon); $50.00 (500 to 1,000-gallons); $100 (2,000 to 5,000-gallons)

* Boston includes West Roxbury, Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, Mattapan, Hyde Park, Allston, Charlestown, Dorchester, Brighton, Roxbury.

**Newton includes Auburndale, Chestnut Hill, Lower Falls, Newton Centre, Newton Highlands, Newtonville, Nonantum, Oak Hill, Thompsonville, Upper Falls, Waban, West Newton.

Underground Tank Closure Reports

In addition to ensuring the safe removal and disposal of the tank, contractors must measure for contamination at the time of closure. Contractors who provide this service must be familiar with the proper protocols for measuring and documenting contamination and be able to identify contamination conditions that are reportable. Closure reports are important because they show a potential purchaser, fire department, MADEP and NHDES that the closure was performed properly and contaminated soil or waste was properly managed.

Example of Soil Analytical Results

DateTimeSample IDSampleDepthPIDPID [background]SamplerNotes
(M/DD/YY)(0:00 AM/PM)(Feet)(PPM)(PPM)(Initials)
4/27/202010:10 AMSW1sidewall 113'0 ppm0 ppmJ.C.
4/27202010:12 AMSW2sidewall 213'0 ppm0 ppmJ.C.
4/27/202010:15 AMSW3sidewall 313'0 ppm0 ppmJ.C.
4/27/202010:18 AMSW4sidewall 413'0 ppm0 ppmJ.C.
4/27/202010:23 AMPBpit bottom14'0 ppm0 ppmJ.C.
4/27/202010:50 AMpiping areaJ.C.Located under patio. Piping passed pressure testing and capped.

The Cost of Maintaining a Residential Underground Tank

Testing a buried oil tank in Southbridge Ma.

CommTank technician tests a 1,000-gallon underground oil tank.

The state of Massachusetts does not regulate underground oil tanks; however, many towns have rules in place to ensure tanks are operating safely and limiting impacts on the environment. A common rule for underground tanks is to require tank tightness testing.  For example, the Town of Brewster requires residential underground oil tank testing 15 years after installation and annually after 20 years. The town also mandates that underground fuel oil tanks must be removed and properly disposed of after 30 years or prior to the title transfer of property where an underground storage tank exists. In order to protect groundwater and surface water from contamination, the Town of Natick requires tank testing at 15 years and annually after that. The cost of tightness testing an underground tank ranges between $800 and $1,300 depending on the size and location of the tank. Annual testing of an older oil tank may be cost-prohibitive.

Fluids Stored in Residential Underground Tanks

  • Fuel Oil
  • Kerosene (used in stoves and portable heaters)
  • Gasoline (typically found on farms or in homes built before filling stations were common.)

Whether you own a residential or commercial property, it’s important to know that most underground storage tanks will last between 10 and 50 years depending on site conditions, tank material, and maintenance. They may eventually leak, which could contaminate the property and cost thousands to clean up. Even larger tanks specifically designed for underground use can leak if they do not have adequate corrosion protection, that’s why underground tank removals make sense for many property owners.

"I just wanted to express my appreciation for the very professional job that you, Luis, and Carlos did in managing the removal of my UST." – Ray Cannon, Andover, MA

275-gallon oil tank that was pulled out of the ground

An example of a heating oil tank that was not designed for underground installation.

A Highland 1,000-gallon underground heating oil tank.

An example of a heating oil tank that was designed for underground installation.

You can find examples of our below-ground tank removal work at the residential project pages below.

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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Q: What is considered an underground storage tank?
  • A: “An underground storage tank system (UST) is a tank and any underground piping connected to the tank that has at least 10 percent of its combined volume underground. The federal UST regulations apply only to UST systems storing either petroleum or certain hazardous substances." Source (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Apr. 11, 2017)

 

  • Q: Do underground tanks have to be removed?
  • A: Massachusetts and New Hampshire do not regulate residential underground tanks but individual towns may prohibit their continued use. Contact the town or city in which the tank is located to determine if any local ordinances apply. Insurance companies and banks also place limitations on underground oil tanks installed at residential locations. Check with the lender and/or insurer to see what their requirements are.

 

  • Q: What is the life expectancy of an underground tank?
  • A: The answer depends on tank construction and the installation technique used by the contractor. Homeowners that install fiberglass underground tanks with proper backfill of sand or rounded pea stone can expect a long life from a buried oil tank. The tank must be secured using weighted bands to prevent it from moving during heavy rains. An underground tank must also have fuel lines that are rated for use underground. Unfortunately, many tanks that were installed underground weren’t designed for underground installation.  Aboveground rated 275-gallon steel oil tanks do not last more than 10-15 years when installed underground. Steel tanks designed for underground installation typically last 20 years. The manufacturer’s warranty is a good indicator of how long the tank is expected to last. Maintenance of underground tanks are another factor. Older compounds used to seal joints dry out and crack over time and may cause a leak through the pipe threads. Teflon tape does not dry out but is not widely used to seal piping of underground tanks. An ideal underground tank installation would have a double-wall fiberglass design, double-wall fuel supply and vent piping, with Teflon based pipe sealant. It would also have a leak detection system installed to monitor fuel levels and sound and alarm if fuel entered the secondary wall of the tank.

 

  • Q: Can you sell a house with an underground tank?
  • A: It’s unlikely a lending institution will approve a mortgage for the buyer. If the buyer finds a lender that will approve a mortgage then the lender will request a tank tightness test report to prove that the tank is safe. Testing an underground tank for tightness is one way to ensure the tank is sound. A soil test is also part of tank testing and it verifies that soil surrounding the tank is not contaminated. While this process provides reassurance about the tank’s condition, it is not infallible. Clay located beneath a tank will contain a leak and mask the location of a hole. Soil testing provides an analysis of the soil surrounding the tank but not the area directly beneath it.  The fuel supply line that connects the tank to the home’s heating system is difficult to test without excavating to the top of the tank.  Isolating the fuel line and pressure testing to the manufactures rating is the only way to ensure the line is liquid and air tight.

 

  • Q: Can you fill an underground tank with sand?
  • A: Yes, but the tank has to meet certain conditions. The fire department will approve a "tank closure in place" if the removal of the tank will cause structural damage to the home. An example of a property that met this condition can be found at our underground tank closure project in Marlboro, Ma.  Filling an underground tank with sand will also cost more than removing the tank, due to the extra steps needed to close it in place. A structural engineer must inspect the site and provide a recommendation to the Fire Department. The technicians have to drill borings beside the tank and cut a hole on the tank bottom to collect soil samples, to rule out contamination. We don’t recommend filling a tank with sand because additional labor is required to fill the tank and compact it. A flowable fill is preferred since it is less labor intensive and reduces the risk of compaction over time. 

 

  • Q: How deep are oil tanks buried?
  • A: We have found underground oil tanks installed at depths of 1-3 feet. Residential tanks are more likely to be buried at shallow depths whereas commercial tanks are installed deeper to prevent damage during floods (an empty tank will become buoyant as the water table rises and can pop out of the ground if not secured with straps connected to concrete underneath). The soil type and water table typically determine the depth that a residential tank is installed.  

 

  • Q: How do you determine if there is a buried oil tank?
  • A: Vent and fill pipes in the yard or near the house foundation frequently trigger investigations for an underground tank during a real estate transaction.  The buyer should check for a record of decommissioning if the homeowner is unsure of the existence of a buried oil tank. If a record does not exist then CommTank will use a utility locator to search for an underground tank.

 

  • Q: Should I remove my underground oil tank?
  • A: Approximately 50% of 275-gallon 12-gauge steel tanks are estimated to develop leaks within 15 years, according to the American Petroleum Institute. Many older underground home heating tanks were never designed to withstand long-term exposure to soil and water. Even steel tanks that were specifically designed for underground use can leak if they do not have adequate corrosion protection. Home heating oil storage tank leaks can be very damaging to the environment and leaking petroleum products may contaminate the groundwater. Toxic ingredients such as benzene, toluene or xylene threaten human health by poisoning the environment and may require costly cleanup.

 

  • Q: Can I convert an underground oil storage tank into a water storage tank?
  • A: We were asked this question by a client who thought a 5,000-gallon underground oil tank could be emptied, steam cleaned and used to store potable water. The short answer is ‘once a fuel tank, always a fuel tank’.  It should never be used for fluids that come in contact or consumption by humans. Removing leachable compounds (contact toxins such as benzene and TCE at the PPM and PPB level) in the molecular grain structure of the base metal would be very difficult.

 

  • Q: What do you do with contaminated soil?
  • A: Contaminated soil is stockpiled on site until it is approved for disposal. It is then transported to a licensed facility, where it can be recycled or used in waste oil burners.

 

  • Q: Do you have to be licensed to remove a buried oil tank?
  • A: Regulated tanks require a licensed contractor. Residential tanks are not typically regulated by the state, however, many municipalities in New Hampshire require certifications from the contractor. Certification demonstrates training in and knowledge of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the State of New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) laws and procedures required for the removal of Underground Storage Tanks (USTs).

 

  • Q: Why would I remove an underground tank when I could close a tank in place?
  • A: Removing an underground tank is typically less expensive than closing a tank in place or tank abandonment as it's sometimes called. For more information about underground tanks closed in place please see our service page that compares the costs and steps required.