What Is A Hydraulic Lift
A hydraulic lift is essentially a pressurized vessel that contains hydraulic oil to lift objects, in this case, a vehicle. A loss of integrity from one of these systems and the leaking of hydraulic oil to the subsurface can become a potential environmental hazard.
Many older auto repair shops have in-ground hydraulic lifts and often times are forgotten about until the property is sold. Most commonly during Phase I Environmental Site Assessments (ESA), the presence of hydraulic lifts is discovered and they are considered a Recognized Environmental Condition (REC) by most environmental professionals. For more information about RECs and the Phase I process, please see of Phase I Environmental Assessment page.
Since many hydraulic lifts operate using an air/oil combination, most lifts will have a reservoir of hydraulic oil. The reservoirs can be above ground but are more commonly found underground. They are typically buried below the control lever along the wall or next to the hydraulic lift itself. The capacity of the reservoirs typically ranges from about 30 to 50 gallons. Based on the relatively small size of these tanks, they are normally exempt from underground storage tank regulations. A majority of the regulatory agencies like the DEQ do not regulate underground hydraulic lifts.
Types Of Hydraulic Lifts
Several types of hydraulic lifts have historically been installed in auto repair shops. The ones most often encountered by Alpha are the single ram style, the twin ram style, and the twin ram style with adjustable spacing. The single ram style is the simplest design and usually contains less underground piping. The twin ram style is more complex as the control system has to regulate the movement of both rams simultaneously. They generally have more underground piping and may be more difficult to evaluate for potential leaks. The twin ram style with adjustable spacing is probably the most complex. These designs have a fixed rear ram and an adjustable front ram. The adjustable front ram can be moved closer or farther away to accommodate different size vehicles. The front ram rides on a sliding carriage that is in a concrete trench. The ram is below ground but is not buried. This style normally has the most piping and has a combination of both rigid and flexible piping. Another issue with this style is the trench is a collector of oil, water, and debris and can be a pathway for additional subsurface contamination.
Hydraulic Lift Sampling
Almost all banking and financial institutions now require sampling of hydraulic lifts as part of the environmental due diligence process. This is often accomplished by drilling a single boring adjacent to the hydraulic lift. While this is one of the best methods we have for determining a potential leak, it is not uncommon to encounter additional contaminated soil during the removal process. Often we find the lifts themselves are intact and leak-free, but small movement in the piping has caused leakage. It is also not uncommon for a bank to require a hydraulic lift removal prior to loaning money on a property.
The Excavation Process
- Saw cut concrete floor to provide access to lifts and subsurface soil.
- Excavate overburden soils surrounding the lift.
- Extract the remaining hydraulic oil from the lift and reservoir.
- Removal of the lift and associated piping.
- Remove contaminated soil if encountered.
- Collect confirmation soil samples.
- Backfill and compact the excavation with gravel material.
- Transport scrap metal to a recycling facility and contaminated soil to a certified disposal facility.
- Replace the concrete floor to closely resemble the surrounding areas.
- May include a summary report of removal activities.