Government of Nova Scotia
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Environment

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Petroleum Storage

Taking Care of Your Tank

It is important for homeowners to understand that maintaining the oil tank is their responsibility. Tank owners should treat the tank no different than if it was a car - take preventative measures. Here are some basic maintenance principles:

  • Do not install a used or “refurbished” tank. Any tank that was removed from its original location was removed for a reason. Often the “refurbished” tank was either leaking at another site or was replaced due to its age. Reuse is simply inviting problems and a likely leak.
  • Determine if your tank has any metal tags or labels attached. These tags will help identify whether the tank was manufactured to national construction standards. Other useful information you may find on the tag includes the year it was manufactured and, in the case of steel tanks, the gauge (or thickness) of steel used to build the tank. Note: Don't paint over the tag!
  • From time to time, check the outside of your tank for any rust. Be careful when rubbing your hand over damp spots or rust bubbles. The slightest pressure may cause a small leak in a corroded tank.
  • Check your tank for obvious signs of damage. Damage includes, but is not limited to, dents, bent or pinched lines, cross-threaded fittings, a broken or cracked fill gauge, cracked or weeping weld seams, and broken or heaved base support. Such damage may accelerate internal or external corrosion, oil supply line failure, threaded joint or weld failure, and/or tank upset.
  • Before and after each fill, inspect the vent and fill pipes and the tank bottom for leaks and spills, as they may not be evident until a change in volume occurs.
  • Remove vegetation and debris such as tall grass, leaves, ice, snow, and insect nests from on or under your tank. Any contact of this material and your tank may accelerate corrosion.
  • If frost heaving or ground settling causes your tank to move, have the tank levelled immediately. A tank resting on a non-level surface may be more susceptible to upset.
  • Arrange to have sludge and water removed from the tank every year. If left unchecked, water and sludge will accelerate internal corrosion in unprotected steel tanks (i.e., tanks not constructed or lined with non-corrosive materials). Also, check with your fuel company about fuel oil additives to reduce the water in your tank.
  • Keep the tank relatively full over the summer so that less water from condensation will collect inside.
  • Arrange to have your oil filter(s) serviced at least once a year.
  • When replacing your tank, avoid transferring the contents of the old tank into the new one. New steel tanks are initially more susceptible to corrosion caused by the presence of sludge, acids, microorganisms, and water. Putting these contaminants in a new steel tank can result in premature failure in as little as eight months.
  • Many oil providers now offer maintenance packages for homeowners as part of an overall customer service plan. If tank inspections are covered under the plan, potential problems may be identified early.
  • A number of devices to help you detect and contain leaks are now available. These products can prevent leaks from making it into the environment by either alerting the homeowner during the initial stages of a leak or containing any spilled product.
  • Nova Scotia experiences variable adverse weather and weather-related conditions, including ice storms, blizzards, hurricanes, and floods. Several weather protection devices are now available to help protect against weather-related damage. They include fill gauge and oil supply line protectors and tank stability brackets and straps.
  • Consult our Heating Oil Tank System CheckupPDF Download Link (PDF:18k) to identify potential problems with your oil storage system.

Disposal of Old Tanks

Once a domestic heating oil tank is removed from service, both the tank and any remaining oil, sludge or residue must be removed and disposed in an environmentally acceptable manner. Do not abandon old tanks or their contents, or allow oil sludge or residue to leak into the environment. It is illegal and irresponsible.

If the tank must be moved before the contents are removed, all openings should be properly sealed to prevent spills.

Your oil tank installer may be able to remove and dispose of any oil, sludge and residue left in the old tank. If not, many municipally operated household hazardous waste facilities will accept old heating oil and sludge from homeowners free of charge.

Old steel can be recycled into new products. Many metal recycling facilities, local scrap or salvage yards, and municipal disposal facilities accept old oil tanks. Ask your tank installer if he or she will take back the old tank as part of the contract to install the new tank. If not, your installer or local municipality may help you find a proper disposal location.