AUGUSTA, Maine — With heavy snow forecasted, emergency responders from Maine Department of Environmental Protection are reminding homeowners to secure their tanks, and their fuel investment, with some simple steps to stop spills.
Of the nearly 3,000 oil and hazardous material spills a year reported to DEP, an average of one per day is from one of the 400,000 or so home heating oil tanks in use in Maine. In 2012, DEP responded to discharges from 496 residential heating oil tanks, just below the 10-year annual average of 506 home tank fuel spills.
“In addition to a costly clean-up and fuel replacement, releases from home heating oil tanks can contaminate drinking water, degrade air quality, lead to lower property values and harm the environment,” explained DEP Response Director Peter Blanchard in a press release. “Fortunately, the leading causes of leaks are preventable. By taking just a few small steps to care for your tank, you are protecting our environment, your family’s health and your pocketbook.”
Internal corrosion, caused by water and sludge build-up, is the primary cause of leaks of residential oil. Because corrosion destroys a tank from the inside out, it 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 corroding and if so, recommend a reliable replacement — like a double-walled or fiberglass tank — before the tank fails.
The second leading cause of home heating oil spills is external tank damage, most often from falling ice and compacting or sliding snow snapping off filters or severing fuel lines.
DEP suggests homeowners have their licensed oil technicians install a steel filter protector, keep their tank clear of snow throughout the winter by shoveling it out after each storm, and carefully and regularly remove snow and ice from the roof above to prevent slides.
Just last month in Franklin County, ice from a roof fell and broke a piece of piping into an outdoor aboveground storage tank, discharging nearly 100 gallons of kerosene and threatening the homeowner’s private drinking water well. All contaminated soil had to be excavated.
Overfills during delivery are the third leading cause of residential tank spills in Maine, and can be prevented by a licensed oil technician installing a vent whistle, which sounds until the tank is full.
If you spill any fuel or if you witness a spill or think there is a threat of one, please report it immediately to Maine DEP’s 24-hour oil spill emergency spill response hotline at 1-800-482-0777.
For more information from DEP about keeping your home heating oil tank safe, visitwww.maine.gov/dep/spills.