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Posted: June 8, 2014

What did you say was buried in my back yard?

mennodueckConstruction Questions

By Menno Dueck

Kevin couldn’t believe what the backhoe operator was telling him:  he might have a residential oil tank buried in his back yard!

Two years ago, Kevin purchased his house from the original homeowner.  All was good… until his first spring introduced him to a leaky basement. Next spring, leaks again, so he called a contractor.

The best source of action and prevention was to excavate to below the footings, seal the foundation with membrane, install drain rock and drain tile, then backfill ensuring the grade ran away from the house.

While digging, the backhoe operator came across an old oil line and vent pipe and was concerned it was to a buried oil tank. (Years ago, many homes had oil heat and tanks were commonly stored underground.) According to the Ministry of Environment, “if you buy a home with a heating oil tank, knowingly, or not, you become potentially liable for any future cleanup costs.” This was certainly news to Kevin, and not good.  In fact, he hadn’t received disclosure about an oil tank from either the homeowner or his home inspection.

Under his contractor’s advice, Kevin called his insurance company, checked out the Ministry of Environment’s website (and called the local office), and spoke to a company that deals with oil tank removal.

The insurance company was clear, the tank had to go (they viewed it as a high risk and if it remained and Kevin had a claim, the claim could be disallowed).  Any oil left in the tank would have to be pumped out and disposed of by experts. If the tank was leaking there could be soil contamination to deal with not only on his property but any neighboring property that was affected. What started out as a project to fix a leaky basement now had the potential to cost thousands more and once there is knowledge of a buried oil tank; it has to be dealt with.

Carefully, the backhoe operator removed more and more soil.  Much to Kevin’s relief, no tank was found. The previous owners had removed the tank, and for some unknown reason left the line and vent. Kevin now has a watertight basement and peace of mind there are no ‘skeletons’ in his back yard.

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