North Country residents urged to check fuel tanks for leaks ahead of winter

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NEW YORK (WWTI) — Officials are urging New Yorkers to check their fuel tanks prior to the winter months.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has reminded homeowners that heating fuel oil storage tanks should be properly inspected for potential leaks or spills prior to receiving the first shipment of fuel oil this fall.

In New York State, over two million homes are heated by fuel oil. The DEC reported, that on average it responds to hundreds of reports of fuel oil spills from home heating oil tanks. These spills can result in basement contamination, extensive damage, groundwater contamination, wells and soils and expensive cleanups that are rarely covered by insurance.

According to the DEC, common causes of home fuel oil spills include failing storage tanks, faulty fuel lines and connections, collapsing tank legs and supports and overflows during delivery. Homeowners are encouraged to consider using a company that offers maintenance services.

For above-ground heating fuel oil storage tanks, homeowners are encouraged to look for the following warning signs:

  • Bent, rusty or wobbly tanks legs or tank located on an unstable foundation
  • Signs of rust, wet spots or many surface dents
  • Drops or any signs of leaks around the oil filter
  • Fuel oil lines not covered in a protective casing
  • Overhanging eaves where snow and ice could fall onto the tank
  • Stains on the ground or a strong odor around the tank
  • Browning, dying or loss of vegetation arond the tank
  • Silent overfill whistle while tank is being filled
  • Fully or partially blocked tank vent from snow, ice or insect nests
  • Signs of spills around fill pipe or vent pipe
  • Improperly sized vent pipes
  • Cracked stuck or frozen fuel level gauges or signs of fuel around them.

The DEC added that there are several different warning signs for underground heating fuel oil storage tanks. These include:

  • Water in the tank
  • Oil or oil sheen in a basement sump or French drain
  • Silent overfill whistle while tank is being filled
  • Fully or partially blocked tank vent form snow, ice or insect nests
  • Signs of spills around fill pipe or vent pipe
  • Well water has strange tastes or smells
  • Complaints from neighbors of fuel oil smells
  • Using more than normal amount of fuel.

Homeowners and residents are urged to report any fuel oil spill or leak to the Department of Environmental Conservation Spills Hotline at 1-800-457-7362.

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