Maine DEP launches home heating oil tank health awareness campaign

Posted Sept. 06, 2011, at 3:31 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is warning Mainers of the dangers of deteriorating oil tanks in a television awareness campaign airing this week.

The spot features Lee Thomas, an emergency spill responder in Maine DEP’s Presque Isle office, telling viewers to have their tank’s thickness tested annually by their oil company or to replace it with a double-bottom tank.

Thomas is part of the Maine DEP Division of Response Services that is dispatched to an average of one spill a day from residential tanks, with the annual clean-up cost adding up to much as $2 million coming from the state’s Groundwater Oil Clean-Up Fund.

About three-quarters of Maine’s households — the highest share in the nation — rely on fuel oil for home heating, accounting for more than 400,000 home heating oil residential tanks in use, according to DEP.

Internal corrosion as a result of water and sludge build-up is the leading cause of leaks, and because corrosion destroys a tank from the inside out, the deterioration isn’t often visible to homeowners until a catastrophic tank failure occurs.

Many Maine oil dealers have licensed technicians on their staff who can perform ultrasonic thickness tests on tanks to determine if they are deteriorating and if so, recommend a replacement before the tank fails.

Other leading causes of residential home heating oil spills are external tank damage — usually from falling ice and snow snapping off filters and leading to leaks — and overfills. Both can be prevented by a licensed oil technician installing a filter protector and a vent whistle, which sounds until a tank is full.

“The purpose of this campaign is to bring people’s awareness to their tanks and what may be happening inside of them before it’s too late,” said David McCaskill, a senior environmental engineer with DEP. “By taking care of your tank, you’re protecting our environment, your family’s health and your pocketbook.”

The 30-second spot will be televised throughout September and October in the Portland, Bangor and Presque Isle markets with nearly every paid buy being matched by a complimentary public service announcement spot donated by Maine’s television stations and cable outlets.

To report a spill or threat of one, call the Maine DEP’s 24-hour oil spill emergency spill response hot line at 800-482-0777.

To see the television spot or for more information, visit www.maine.gov/dep and click on “Residential Tank Safety” under the featured links.

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