So, I have a contractor decommissioning my old 650-gallon oil tank. There is a 3" metal tube coming out of the ground from the tank that is what I believe to be the receptacle used to fill the tank when it was still active.

My question here is, for the $1900 that I am paying to have this tank decommissioned, should I expect them to saw off and hide the filler tube that pokes up 6 inches out of the ground?

  • Out of curiosity, could you detail how the tank is being decommissioned? I will likely need to have the same done in the future... I have heard you can fill with cement?? – Josh Jun 18 '12 at 22:40
  • @Josh, I'm having a basement tank decommissioned. They are going to cut it up and take it away. The cost is $500. – Vebjorn Ljosa Jun 19 '12 at 7:58

Whether or not they remove the fill line, depends on how the tank is decommissioned. There are three ways an abandoned tank can be handled, as explained in this PDF

The 1997 Uniform Fire Code, adapted by WAC 51- 44, requires that heating oil tanks out of service for a period of one year shall be decommissioned by using one of the following processes.

  1. Removal from the ground and restoration of the site in an approved manner.
  2. Abandonment in place by filling the tank completely with an approved, inert solid material.
  3. Tanks of 1,100 gallons or less may be left empty provided they are first pumped and cleaned, and have the fill line capped or plugged, below grade, to prevent refilling of the tank. (NOTE: Some local juisdictions do not permit this “clean and cap” method. Check local requirements before beginning any decommissioning process.)

In the first method, the tank is completely removed, so the fill line will also be removed. With the second method, the fill line may be left behind. In the third case, the fill line should be cut below grade before it's capped. So the fill line will still be there, but it will be at or below the level of the ground.

The document also has a good list of questions to ask the contractor.

Some important questions to ask contractors:

• Are they experienced? Can they provide the names and telephone numbers of current or recent customers as references?

• Do they have environmental pollution liability coverage?

• Do they collect soil samples?

• Which laboratory do they use for the analyses?

• Where will the tank, oil, and contaminated water from rinsing out the tank be disposed? Is that disposal site insured?

• What documentation, labeling, and other paperwork are provided? You should receive documentation of disposal of the tank, a copy of the lab results, documentation that the soil samples were handled properly, a copy of any permits required, and documentation of the disposal and/or treatment of any wastes.


I would insist that they remove the fill line, for the reason mikes pointed out.

Horror story: friends of mine bought a house. One of the big selling points was the brand-new gas furnace that had replaced an oil furnace. The house was inspected by a professional as a condition of sale.

They came home one day to the stench of diesel fuel. No one had told the fuel oil company to stop their regular delivery, which they had duly deposited, in accordance with the never-cancelled contract with the former owner, in the still-in-place filler. But the tank had been removed, and 1,200 gallons of fuel oil covered the floor of their basement to several inches.

Last I heard -- three years later -- the only ones who had benefitted were lawyers. My friends were heartbroken and nearly bankrupt. The former owners, the home inspector, the fuel oil company, and the new owners were all pointing fingers at each other. The US EPA was involved. The damage was into six figures. The entire concrete basement floor and the bottom two feet of the house's footing had to be removed and hauled to a certified toxic waste site -- not to mention possessions they had in the basement. They had to live in a motel for about six weeks.

About this time, the housing bubble burst, the bank got wind of the problem, and called in their loan. They were told the house could never be sold again, with state disclosure laws and such. The lawyer got the mortgage continued, but of course at a pound of flesh.

So NOW is the time to head off a potential disaster!

  • That's why there's an outlet pipe that whistles as the oil gets pumped in. No whistle, stop pumping! – Pete Becker Nov 15 '13 at 15:02

I would assume that it would be included in the decomissioniing. In many locales it is required to prevent accidental fillings that could result in a spill.

  • Great. thanks. I will use that as a talking point. – djangofan Jun 18 '12 at 22:33
  • Yes, there are likely local rules around this, as it has happened before that basements have been filled with oil after a tank has been taken out. – gregmac Jun 19 '12 at 16:40

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