tank decommissioning the proper way to handle oil tanks

Tank Decommissioning: The Proper Way to Handle Old Tanks

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With all the environmental factors working against an underground heating oil tank (HOT), it is likely to break down, jeopardizing its ability to contain the oil from the surrounding environment. In other instances, you may just not need your oil tank anymore.

Either way, when the time comes to replace or retire it, it’s important that you have the correct approach to protect the surrounding soil and groundwater. Oil tank decommissioning ensures a healthy environment and protects the property owner from liability. 

Understanding the proper methods for handling your old tank will help protect you and your property while staying in compliance with local regulations.

What Is Tank Decommissioning?

Tank decommissioning is the process of closing out an oil tank by either refilling it with another material or removing it entirely. Tank decommissioning is vital, as underground oil tanks can corrode and break down as they age. Underground storage tanks are typically made of steel, which can wear down and rust over time.

Tanks are bound to deteriorate at different rates due to various environmental factors, like the acidity of the soil, the moisture, the thickness of the tank, and the age of the tank. Ultimately, though, the breakdown of an oil tank is inevitable. Therefore, it’s important to have a process in place for decommissioning the tank when it is time to retire it.

Altogether, tank decommissioning may be necessary for a variety of reasons:  

  • The tank is damaged or corroding.
  • You no longer need an underground oil tank.
  • You plan to replace your tank with a new one.
  • You or your company is moving to a new location.

Why Is Tank Decommissioning Important?

Underground storage tanks are responsible for holding oil or other hazardous materials. As oil tanks wear down, they run the risk of allowing the contents to leak. Failure to address a corroded tank or remove it from the ground could lead to adverse environmental impacts, like contaminants leaching into the soil and groundwater.

Following a detailed decommissioning process in compliance with all local regulations helps to minimize the environmental impact of the tank. Formally decommissioning the tank is a much more responsible way to retire a tank than leaving it in the ground. Leaving the tank in the ground without following a careful decommissioning process can lead to contaminated soil and groundwater, as well as legal consequences for the property owner.

Methods for Proper Tank Handling

There are multiple methods and steps for properly decommissioning a tank, with filling the tank in the ground or removing it entirely being the two most popular options. Proper tank handling also includes taking precautionary measures to ensure minimal impact on the environment around the tank, like assessing the surrounding soil and groundwater.

At Alpha Environmental, we follow careful steps to ensure a proper tank closure. To safely decommission a heating oil tank, we:

  1. Pump out any remaining oil or chemicals and clean the tank.
  2. Fill the tank with slurry, sand, or concrete.
  3. Collect soil samples around the tank to monitor any potential contamination.
  4. Cut off the fill and vent pipes leading to and from the tank.
  5. If necessary, register the tank with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Aside from decommissioning the tank itself, the process should also include multiple steps to protect the surrounding environment. To ensure minimal impact on the environment, our decommissioning process also includes these steps:

  • Soil matrix cleanup – This process removes any contaminated soil from the site of a heating oil tank to safe levels in accordance with DEQ standards.
  • Risk-based decision-making cleanup – This method allows for the proper closure of a heating oil tank site if there is proof that the contamination will not impact human or environmental health.
  • General remedy cleanup – This process allows for a less costly cleanup when there is a limited risk of adverse environmental impact under DEQ guidelines.

Regulations and Compliance

From the point of deciding when to decommission a tank to the removal process, it is crucial to follow all local, state, and federal guidelines. Contaminated soil or groundwater due to non-compliance with government regulations could result in the property owner being held liable and lead to fines for you or your business.

Oregon requires specific standards for decommissioning a tank along with either a HOT decommissioning report or a HOT soil matrix cleanup report. In some instances, homeowners are also required to have their tank certified with the Department of Environmental Quality after closure.

Based on Oregon law, homeowners who hire a service to decommission their heating oil tank are required to contract with a licensed service provider. Working with a licensed service provider ensures the job will be completed up to local standards.

Under Oregon law, homeowners are legally allowed to decommission a tank on their own as long as they comply with all local, state, and federal regulations. In this case, homeowners must understand the many nuances and requirements around this process before deciding to carry out the tank decommissioning process. In order to protect the surrounding environment, there is a comprehensive set of requirements that homeowners and service providers must follow.  

When performing a tank decommissioning, you must also complete an Investigation of Magnitude and Extent of Contamination. This process includes an assessment of soil samples and groundwater to determine whether any contamination has happened due to the tank.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has its own requirements surrounding permanently closed tanks that service providers must follow. These requirements encompass record-keeping, clean-up, and leak detection.

Hiring a Professional Tank Decommissioning Service

Given all of the detailed requirements that surround the decommissioning process, it is often better to leave the project in the hands of a professional tank decommissioning service. A professional service has experience with everything from ensuring a tank is permanently closed to completing all the necessary assessments.

As mentioned above, when decommissioning a tank, it is essential to work only with a licensed and experienced professional service to ensure both compliance with Oregon law and an effective result. A professional tank decommissioning service will understand and work within local, state, and federal guidelines and regulations.

At Alpha Environmental, we are fully licensed and aware of local regulations to ensure a smooth tank decommissioning process. We will provide you with peace of mind throughout the whole process, including properly closing out your tank, performing the proper tests, and handling all of the necessary documentation.

Trust the Experts at Alpha Environmental for Tank Decommissioning

Proper tank decommissioning is a comprehensive but essential process for protecting soil and groundwater. Although Oregon allows homeowners to complete the process on their own, there are many nuances and requirements that can make it difficult to keep up with local regulations. Therefore, it is best to leave the process to professionals with the licensing and experience necessary to perform safe and effective oil tank decommissioning.

At Alpha Environmental, our careful tank decommissioning services protect your property, stay in compliance with local regulations, and minimize your environmental impact. Whether you have an oil leak or an old tank, Alpha Environmental can perform an effective tank closure following our detailed process.

With 21 years of experience in Portland, Oregon, you can trust us to get the job done right. Contact us today to learn more about our tank decommissioning methods or to schedule a free estimate.

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David D.
Lake Oswego, OR
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My wife and I experienced a hot water pipe busting in the crawlspace. It has been a total nightmare. However, Chris and his team provided expert quality care, with timeliness and the greatest degree of professionalism. I would HIGHLY recommend Alpha Enviornmental!
Zhanna S.
Beaverton, OR
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Can’t say enough about Alpha Environmental! Their costumer service is 10/10, they have really good systems in place, responsive, and professional. The gals in the scheduling department are always so kind! As a real estate agent, I use Alpha’s services numerous times a year. Either it’s for Mold bids, oil tank decommissioning, radon etc. They always do a fantastic job! Thank you for all the work you do!