Protecting Oregon's Environment
Oregon State Seal
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Land Quality 

Tanks 

Tanks Home Page
Heating Oil Tanks
HOT Service Provider/Supervisor
Leaking Underground Storage Tanks
Online Petroleum Release Reporting
Underground Storage Tanks
UST Service Provider/Supervisor
Above Ground Storage Tanks
Septic Tanks
Conferences, Training & Workshops

Heating Oil Tanks Program

Frequently Asked Questions
Homeowners, Buyers and Sellers

A. Homeowner FAQs

  1. What is a heating oil tank?
  2. I have a heating oil tank that I no longer use. What am I required to do with it?
  3. Looking up environmental contamination information about residential sites and adjacent properties.
  4. If the DEQ does not have any records of a tank on my property, how do I determine if there is a heating oil tank?
  5. I do not have Internet access. How do I get my questions answered?
  6. I'd like to decommission my own HOT, does DEQ have any guidance?
  7. What happens to my cleanup if the rules change after the work is completed and the file is closed?

B. Buyer and Seller FAQs

  1. What should I know about buying or selling a home with a heating oil tank?
  2. I'm going to sell my house, and the buyer is requesting a decommissioning letter from the DEQ. What do I need to do in order to get a letter from the DEQ?
  3. Dealing with HOT sites with previously reported releases and/or residual contamination.

Homeowner FAQs Answers

  1. What is a heating oil tank?

For the purposes of DEQ's program, a heating oil tank is an underground tank used for storing heating fuel for use on site. The heating oil tank is part of a heating oil system that should be maintained and, if necessary, replaced just as roofs, appliances, furnaces and water heaters that require on-going maintenance and are replaced when they are no longer useful. The useful life of an unprotected steel tank is about 20 years.

  1. I have a heating oil tank that I no longer use. What am I required to do with it?

Oregon law (ORS 466.878) requires the owner to pump out all heating oil from an abandoned (unused) underground heating oil tank when:

  • The tank is no longer used as a heating source.
  • The tank has been replaced with a new one.
  • The home or business is sold.

Please refer to: Requirements for Heating Oil Tanks No Longer in Use PDF

  1. Looking up environmental contamination information about residential sites and adjacent properties.

Over the past several years, DEQ has made a concerted effort to make summary information from its files on tanks and hazardous substance-contaminated sites available over the Internet. That said, contractors and homeowners must realize that the data is incomplete in the sense that not every tank (i.e., residential heating oil tank, small tank or farm tank) and contaminated site (most reporting systems exclude certain small releases and often exclude residential releases) is regulated by DEQ. Notwithstanding these limitations, however, very useful information can be gleaned by initially searching the three on-line databases listed below.

DEQ offers three bits of advice in using the databases:

  1. When using the databases for the first time, please review the instructions for use that come with each database;
  2. Computers search for exact matches, therefore, put in only the information that you are positive about; and
  3. In conducting computer searches, less information to match is often better than too much information to match (while you may have to review 20 results from the search to find the one site you are looking for, it's more likely that the site will show up on the list of 20 sites).

The following databases are available via the "Databases" link above:

Environmental Cleanup Site Databases
Searchable databases of Oregon sites with known or suspected hazardous substance contamination. Includes sites that have already been cleaned up.

Facility Profiler
A GIS mapping application showing which of DEQ's environmental programs (air quality, water quality or land quality) are active at given locations.

LUST Cleanup Site Database
Searchable database of Oregon sites that have had a release of petroleum products from an underground storage tank, including a heating oil tank. Includes sites that have already been cleaned up.

  1. If the DEQ does not have any records of a tank on my property, how do I determine if there is a heating oil tank?

To locate a buried tank first try to find the fill pipe (where fuel was delivered by the fuel truck) or the vent pipe. The fill pipe will often be close to the ground over the tank. The vent pipe is usually visible up the side of the house 2 feet to 8 feet above the ground surface. Each set of pipes leads to the top of the tank, which is typically 2 feet below the ground. Attempt to locate the furnace that was fueled by the heating oil tank, and track the piping out through the foundation to the tank.

You can also determine whether other homes in the area had heating oil tanks. If adjacent homes built during the same time have tanks, then it is likely that there may be a tank on your property.

  1. I do not have Internet access. How do I get my questions answered?

If the information provided does not answer your question(s), you may call, 503-229-6170 and ask to speak to a HOT project manager, or toll-free by calling, 1-800-742-7878, and ask to be transferred to the HOT program.

  1. I'd like to decommission my own HOT, does DEQ have any guidance?

Although DEQ doesn't recommend it, it is legal for a homeowner to decommission their own heating oil tank and, if necessary, cleanup environmental soil and groundwater contamination from a heating oil release. However, the homeowner must do the work themselves. If they hire the work done, the work must be done by a DEQ licensed contractor as required by law. For those homeowners who feel capable of completing a voluntary decommissioning and associated cleanup, DEQ has written two guidance documents that cover the major activities to be performed. The HOT Decommissioning Guidance for Homeowners discusses the rules, health and safety risks, sampling and reporting requirements for a voluntary decommissioning of a HOT. The HOT Cleanup Guidance for Homeowners discusses the rules, health and safety concerns, cleanup options, sampling and reporting requirements related to cleaning up contaminated soil or groundwater. To assist contractors and homeowners in preparing the necessary decommissioning and soil matrix cleanup reports, DEQ has prepared two model reports as examples. When preparing and submitting a decommissioning report, please follow the example in Preparing a HOT Decommissioning Report: Guidance for Contractors and Homeowners. When preparing and submitting a Soil Matrix cleanup report, please follow the example in Preparing a HOT Soil Matrix Cleanup Report: Guidance for Contractors and Homeowners.

Visit the HOT Guidance for Contractors and Homeowners web page.

  1. What happens to my cleanup if the rules change after the work is completed and the file is closed?

The files will not be reopened because of a rule change. Typically, the only time a file is reopened is when new or undisclosed facts show that the cleanup does not comply with rules in place at the time of cleanup.

Buyer and Seller FAQs Answers

  1. What should I know about buying or selling a home with a heating oil tank?

Please refer: What You Should Know about Buying or Selling a Home with a Heating Oil Tank

  1. I'm going to sell my house, and the buyer is requesting a decommissioning letter from the DEQ. What do I need to do in order to get a letter from the DEQ?

Contractors or homeowners decommissioning their own tank must submit a report, and "certify" that their work is in compliance with all regulatory requirements and cleanup standards have been met. The report, certification letter and a fee of $75 for a clean decommission or $200 for a cleanup is submitted to the DEQ. If the required documentation and fees have been submitted, the DEQ then registers the certified cleanup report and sends a letter to the responsible person. The DEQ audits various certifications and contractors to ensure that the work meets acceptable standards.

  1. Dealing with HOT sites with previously reported releases and/or residual contamination.

It has come to DEQ's attention that contractors are being asked to recertify sites that have previously been issued a No Further Action letter by DEQ prior to 2/17/2000 or been certified as meeting standards by a contractor after 2/17/2000. The issue becomes what reliance, if any, can contractors and/or homeowners place on those earlier decommissioning or cleanup determinations. The advice DEQ has been giving is that the earlier determinations remain valid if:

  • No evidence exists to suggest a new release has occurred.
  • New site assessment data is consistent with the data submitted and relied on to make the earlier determination.
  • DEQ has not challenged the reliability of the earlier data through an enforcement action.

If the contractors or homeowners have any questions about the new information, they should contact the HOT technical staff for assistance or send an .

On a related matter, DEQ is occasionally asked how long the results from a site assessment are valid where an active tank remains in the ground. Because new spills or releases from an active tank can occur at any time, DEQ advises that site assessment samples should be relied on for no more than 90 days. After 90 days it is advisable for new assessment data to be collected. DEQ will not accept site assessment data that is more than 90 days old if used to certify a decommissioning or cleanup.

[print version]

 

For more information about DEQ's Land Quality programs, visit the DEQ contact page.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Headquarters: 700 NE Multnomah Street, Suite 600, Portland, OR 97232
Phone: 503-229-5696 or toll free in Oregon 1-800-452-4011
Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service: 1-800-735-2900  FAX: 503-229-6124

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a regulatory agency authorized to protect Oregon's environment by
the State of Oregon and the Environmental Protection Agency.

DEQ Web site privacy notice