Washington Department of Ecology

State of Washington Department of Ecology

The Washington Department of Ecology does not regulate the use or operation of residential heating oil tanks, like the State of Oregon does. However, some local governments may have different requirements or guidelines that may apply to residential storage tanks. Regulations and policies vary from place to place and may change from time to time.

Are there specific concerns I should have as a homeowner if I have an abandoned oil tank on my property?

  • Tanks can develop holes and release heating oil into the soil. The released oil can contaminate groundwater, surface water, storm sewers, and cause vapor problems in nearby buildings. Under the state Model Toxics Control Act, the tank owner may be held liable for damage caused by a leaking tank.
  • Corrosion can cause underground tanks to deteriorate, making cave-ins a possibility. The homeowner could be held liable for injuries caused by a cave-in.
  • Before finalizing the sale of a house, lending institutions and home buyers may want sellers to remove or “close” unused heating oil tanks. To “close” a heating oil tank, the homeowner has the tank cleaned out and filled. The tank is then left buried in the ground.
Washington Department of Ecology

Washington Department of Ecology – tank found within a backyard in Vancouver, vent pipe can be found running along the side of the house to the left of the window. The sampling of this tank resulted in a Risk Based Clean-Up.

How does Ecology prefer decommissioning take place?

Ecology recommends that the tank is removed with proper soil samples taken, and remediation, if necessary. However, decommissioning the tank in-place is also acceptable, as long as soil samples take place and remediation is completed, if necessary.

Can I decommission my tank as a homeowner?

There is no law prohibiting homeowners from doing their own decommissioning. Although, Ecology does not recommend doing the tank work yourself because of the potential safety risks. Hiring an experienced contractor is advised, as working on an underground storage tank can be dangerous. Under certain conditions, tanks can explode. Working in the excavation pit, cutting open or handling heavy tanks, and using power equipment also pose risks to the homeowner. Ecology recommends that homeowners hire an experienced contractor to perform decommissioning work.

Leaking tanks and the State of Washington Department of Ecology

What if a tank has leaked?

Knowingly using a leaking tank is negligence. If you discover that your tank is leaking you must take immediate action to stop the leak. In most cases where a tank has leaked, only the soil near the tank is affected. Sometimes, however, the heating oil may also have contaminated groundwater or surface water. It is the homeowners or contractors responsibility to:

  • Evaluate the extent of contamination caused by the leak
  • Evaluate the extent of the contamination caused by the leak
  • Determine if it is a threat to human health and the environment
  • Clean-up any contamination caused by the leak

Should I report the leak to Ecology?

Minor Leaks or Spills that affect only the soil near the residential heating oil tank do not have to reported to the Department of Ecology.   However, if the minor leak was discovered during the process of the tank being decommissioned, Ecology does recommend reporting the minor spill through the ERTS program.

Contaminated Soil above 2000 PPM does need to be reported to the Department of Ecology. Any groundwater, surface water, free product or vapor intrusion should also be noted during the reporting process.

How do I report a leak to Ecology?

All confirmed releases must be reported to the Washington Department of Ecology within 24 hours to the ERTS SYSTEM. A leak can be reported via a phone call or through the online reporting system.

Should I clean-up contamination?

Absolutely, and the Department of Ecology recommends that homeowners hire a qualified clean-up contractor to perform the remediation. When the clean-up has been completed, the contractor should give the homeowner a copy of the clean-up report. Clean-up reports of minor leaks do not need to be sent to Ecology, as they do not track or report on these clean-ups. Clean-up reports on more extensive leaks do need to be sent to the Ecology regional office, as they do keep track of and report on these sites. All reports should be kept by the homeowner for their records and the remaining life of the property.

Does the Department of Ecology have a LUST list like the State of Oregon?

Yes, it is called the Confirmed and Suspected Contaminated Site List (CSCSL). However, the majority of the sites on this list are large properties, with larger leaks (i.e. gas stations). It is extremely rare when a residential property does appear on this list, reasons that a site would appear on CSCSL is as follows:

  • When a property has been reported, but after 90 days, no closure and/or continued work to complete the remediation has taken place.
  • If groundwater has been encountered, the property automatically gets put on the CSCSL. The homeowner/contractor then has to go through the voluntary clean-up to get taken off the list. Ecology then works with the homeowner/contractor to get off the list by providing opinions on the work being completed and to verify if meets the status of no further action.

Additional Website Links:

PLIA in Washington State

PLIA Insurance Coverage

In 1995 the Washington Legislature added pollution liability coverage for heating oil tanks to PLIAs responsibilities. PLIA in Washington State assists owners of underground storage tanks to provide available and affordable insurance through a state administered reinsurance program. The program was created in response to the rising number of heating oil tank releases and the significant impact contamination had on property values, as well as the environment. When a clean-up has been completed, PLIA will provide homeowners with a Letter of Finding which states that the site has met the clean-up standards defined in the Model Toxics Control Act.

PLIA can also assist homeowners with the following information:

  • Verifying the validity of required declarations of financial responsibility
  • Provide advice and technical assistance regarding liability and clean-up requirements

What is covered when insured through PLIA?

  • Up to $60,000 to clean-up contamination, not covered by other insurance, on your property and/or a neighboring property
  • The contamination must come from a leak that starts after a heating oil tank is registered with PLIA. The tank may be a UST or an AST
  • The tank must be registered in the current owners name
  • Reimbursement up to $1500 to repair damages on neighboring property (third party coverage) such as landscaping, flooring, painting, etc.

What is NOT covered through PLIA?

  • Leaks from abandoned or previously decommissioned tanks
  • Leaks that start before registering with PLIA
  • Property restoration on your property (first party coverage)
  • Removal/repair/replacement of the tank/lines/furnace
  • Emergency heat restoration
  • Heating oil lost in the release

How do you apply for insurance through PLIA?

  • No cost to register
  • Must complete and submit to PLIA the PLIA registration form
  • You must be registered with PLIA prior to the start of any accidental release in order for the clean-up to be covered
  • When PLIA receives the completed registration form, you will be mailed a confirmation. If confirmation is not received within 14 days, contact PLIA at 1-800-822-3905 or 360-407-0520

How to file a claim through PLIA

  • If a release is suspected or confirmed from your registered heating oil tank, PLIA must be contacted at 1-800-822-3905 or 360-407-0520 within 30 calendar days from the date the tank is disconnected from the furnace.
  • PLIA will investigate the claim, which may include taking photos of your property and the failed tank
  • Owner will hire an approved contractor to do the clean-up
  • All work must be approved by PLIA before the work starts

Who is the Policy through?

  • The Pollution Liability Insurance is covered through The Colony Insurance Company, please click the link to read about the WA Pollution Liability Policy

PLIA Insurance Coverage and Soil Sampling

How to get started, obtaining soil samples through a site assessment

  • The heating oil tank owner must select a service provider to perform the site assessment and is responsible for payment of all costs associated with soil sampling.
  • PLIA will interpret and provide a report to the owner with the results of the soil testing. Each report will provide the following information:
    • No apparent contamination that poses a threat to human health and the environment, no further action is required.
    • Minor contamination is present at the site and further site assessment or clean-up may be required.
    • Serious contamination is present, appears to pose a threat to human health and the environment, immediate corrective action is required.

What are the costs associated with the insurance through PLIA?

  • PLIA in Washington State insurance coverage is required to collect from the tank owner, requesting technical assistance, the costs incurred in providing assistance.
  • Costs incurred may include travel costs and expenses associated with monitoring site assessments, review of reports and analyses and preparation of written opinions and conclusions.
  • The Technical Assistance cost is $350.00 and must be paid in full prior to PLIA issuing its report of review and assessment of data.

Additional PLIA informational websites:

Heating Oil Technical Assistance Program (HOTAP) through PLIA Insurance Coverage

If a tank owner DOES NOT have insurance through PLIA, and it is determined that their tank is leaking, is there anything that PLIA can assist with?

Yes, even if the leaking tank is not covered by the Heating Oil Insurance Program through PLIA, a homeowner can request assistance on tank removal and environmental clean-up under the Heating Oil Technical Assistance Program (HOTAP).

How can HOTAP help my uninsured leaking UST?

Through HOTAP, PLIA can provide advice and technical assistance to owners of active or abandoned heating oil tanks if contamination resulting from a release is suspect. Advice and assistance may include:

  • Review of clean-up plans and reports
  • Interpretation of results from soil sampling through a site assessment or site check
  • An opinion letter from PLIA to the owner regarding the results of the testing

How does HOTAP work?

  • The owner of the UST will perform soil sampling, through a site check or site assessment. The owner of the tank may chose a service provider of their choice to perform any and all site work at the property. The tank owner is responsible for payment of all costs associated with soil sampling, site assessment and remediation.
  • Once sampling has been completed, the results of all testing must be forwarded to PLIA for review and evaluation. A copy of the service provider’s field notes must also be forwarded to PLIA.
  • If testing and remediation has been completed prior to PLIAs review, PLIA will consider providing a review and evaluation of the data. PLIA considers how recently the testing and remediation was completed and will consider the methods of the assessment prior to agreeing to review and evaluate the results.
  • Upon completion of review and evaluation, PLIA will provide an opinion letter informing the owner of the review and assessment of the data. The opinion letter from PLIA will provide the following opinions:
    • Property Further Action Opinion Letter– further remedial action is necessary at the property to clean-up contamination and remediation action is also necessary elsewhere at the site
    • Property No Further Action Opinion Letter – no further remedial action is necessary at the property to clean-up contamination at the site and that further remedial action is still necessary elsewhere at the site
    • Site Further Action Opinion Letter – further remedial action is necessary to clean-up contamination at the site
    • Site No Further Action Opinion Letter – no further remedial action is necessary to clean-up contamination at the site

What is the cost for HOTAP?

The fee for the Heating Oil Technical Assistance Program is $350.00. This fee covers the cost incurred in providing advice and assistance, expenses, review of reports and analysis, and preparation of written opinions and conclusions. The fee must be paid in full prior to PLIA issuing its report of review and assessment of data.

As a homeowner, I’ve discovered my tank has leaked but I’m not registered with PLIA.  I can now register in the HOTAP program to receive a review of the testing results and a letter from PLIA “closing the site”?  This is at a cost of $350?  All other out-of-pocket expenses; sampling, remediation, etc. come out of my pocket?

Yes, to all three questions.

My leaking tank is not registered with PLIA and I opt NOT to join HOTAP, as long as I’ve registered with Ecology I’m fine, correct?

No, the site still needs to be addressed and remediation is required. If a homeowner would like a letter stating the site has been closed through PLIA, they would need to enter into the HOTAP program.

I’m selling my home and the buyer has performed a tank search, and a tank has been found. Can I now register the abandoned tank with PLIA?

No, abandoned tanks CANNOT be registered with PLIA  in Washington State. Only active tanks are eligible for the program.

Risk-Based Clean-Up

Risk-Based Clean-Up

Risk-Based remediation addresses the highest level of contamination from a leaking underground storage tank, with levels reported above 10,000 PPM. According to the DEQ, a risk-based clean-up offers the greatest amount of flexibility and adaptability to site-specific conditions. However, it is also the option that might require collecting additional site data and evaluation of more alternatives than a soil matrix or generic remedy clean-up. Risk-based clean-ups are the most rigorous option, with the collection of several soil samples to determine the magnitude and depth of contaminated soil, as well as how far the contamination has spread. The most important aspect of a risk-based clean-up is the evaluation of current and reasonably likely future risks to human health and the environment.

A risk-based remediation involves a soil investigation, which examines the pathways the contamination has likely spread. This pathway evaluation determines where the contaminants were released, how the contaminants can be transported to new locations and the reasonably likely ways that people may come into contact with them. Tests need to be conducted on enough samples to determine the lateral extent, as well as the depth of the petroleum contamination.

There are three investigative phases of concern while conducting a risk-based clean-up, phase two and three may not be necessary if the area of contaminated soil is limited enough in extent. Below are the steps, in order, that are required by the DEQ in order to close a risk-based clean-up:

Risk-Based Clean-Up and Free Product, Groundwater and Soil Vapor Gas

Petroleum Contaminated Soil (PCS) and/ or Free Product:

Up to seven (7) soil samples are taken to establish a representative sample and delineate the vertical and lateral extent of the pocket of petroleum-impacted soil, and potential or actual groundwater impacts. If it is determined that there is free product or large volumes of heavily contaminated soil, from which product may continue to migrate, mitigating the risk by excavation and off-site removal would be required, to the maximum extent practicable.

Risk-Based Clean-Up

Petroleum Contaminated Soil (PCS) seen during an excavation. The PCS is pictured here in the greyish color.

Risk-Based Clean-Up

The side view of the PCS, here you can see the coloration difference between the contaminated and the native soil.

Risk-Based Clean-Up

Free Product refilling into a sample boring hole

Risk-Based Clean-Up

Free Product within a sampling tube

Groundwater:

Has groundwater at the site at risk or has it been impacted by the diesel contamination?

In order to determine if groundwater has been or could be potentially encountered, a 10’ separation is required by the DEQ between the vertical extent of the contaminated soil and any potential shallow groundwater.

If there is no impact or potential impact to groundwater?

The groundwater investigation is now completed, no further action would be required.

If groundwater has been or has the potential to be impacted, what are the next steps?

A representative well will be installed in the source area to determine if groundwater has been impacted by the release. The installation of the representative well is designed to obtain a groundwater sample to measure, if any, the water level elevation in the contaminated water or soil.

If the samples in the representative well have detections that exceed the DEQs Ingestion and Inhalation from Tap Water Risk-Based Clean-Up levels, a groundwater investigation is necessary. The groundwater investigation determines the extent of the contaminated groundwater, and whether it is limited only to the property of the leaking UST or if extends to neighboring properties.

If the samples in the representative well meet the DEQ Ingestion and Inhalation from Tap Water Risk Based Clean-Up levels, no further action would be required.

The 10’ separation boring cannot be obtained due to site conditions, what happens to the investigation?

If a 10’ separation boring cannot be completed due to examples like refusal (rocky soil, etc.) or if the tank is too deep, per the DEQ a Beneficial Well Survey would need to be conducted.

A Beneficial Well Survey determines if a release of hazardous substances has impacted or has the potential to impact groundwater or surface water, through contaminant migration. These determinations will be used for evaluating exposure pathways in human health and ecological risk assessment; for identifying hot spots of contamination; and for selection or approval of remedial actions at hazardous substance clean-up sites.

The DEQ requires the survey to identify all properties that are in proximity to the site with the leaking underground storage tank, which may be utilizing a water supply well. The well may be used for drinking water, irrigation, etc. DEQ regulations considers that any well on a property that is for domestic use, be accounted for. These surveys can and are conducted within and outside city limits.

Grd Water

Groundwater encountered within an opening within an underground storage tank.

Vapor Intrusion from soil or groundwater:

Vapor intrusion is the migration of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) from the subsurface into buildings. Per the DEQ, vapors released from volatile substances can be slowly released from underground spills. These volatile constituents move upward through the pores in the soil, when the soil is exposed during excavation, as well as, from contaminated groundwater. The DEQ requires Soil Vapor Gas sampling (SVGs) to assess the potential of carcinogenic vapors entering residential buildings. When certain constituents of interest, such as benzene, ethylbenzene and naphthalene concentrations exceed the DEQ Vapor Intrusion into Residential Buildings Standards, soil vapor gas sampling would be required.

To assess the potential cancer risks from vapor intrusion into homes, soil vapor gas sampling is triggered if any of the following variables apply:

  • The plume of contamination exceeds 65 cubic yards
  • There are, or likely to be, buildings within 30 feet of Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
  • A 10’ separation cannot be established between the vertical extent and any potential shallow groundwater

Due to site specific factors, the number and sample locations may vary. Sampling may be conducted within the home or on the exterior of the building, either through the sub-slab and/or the soil.

Risk-Based Clean-Up

Soil Vapor Gas Sampling at the exterior of the property

Risk-Based Clean-Up

Sub-Slab Sampling, in the interior of the building

For a more in-depth overview of the DEQs requirements and standards regarding Risk-Based Clean-Up and leaking tanks, please visit their Leaking Underground Storage Tank Program (LUST site) DEQ LUST Site.

Important EcoTech Documents

For additional information regarding our service lines, we have attached supplementary documents for your reference.

Heating Oil Tanks

Radon Mitigation

Seismic Retrofits

Septic Tanks & Cesspools

UST Tank Search for Buyers

UST Tank Search for Buyers – Common Questions

As a Buyer, searching for an underground storage tank has become integrated as part of the inspection period. These are some of the most common questions that we are asked regarding the tank inspection process and why it is important to protect yourself before you buy.

What is an underground storage tank (UST)?

Homes, apartments, farms and some businesses that are currently or were previously heated using diesel heating oil, used an underground storage tank (UST) to store the heating oil. The USTs were usually buried in the yard, and copper tubing or steel piping was installed to deliver the diesel from the tank to the furnace. In Oregon, an estimated 100,000 USTs were installed for home heating.

UST Tank Search for Buyers

UST Tank Search for Buyers – Rendition of an underground storage tank (UST) buried in a yard, with the supply lines running into the home.

Why should I worry about a UST?

Underground storage tanks are made of steel, which are selected for their strength, not for their corrosion resistance. Therefore steel USTs rust through, given enough time. Like a roof, steel storage tanks have a life of about 25 years, and like a roof it is cheaper to replace the tank or convert to another heat source before it leaks and the damage is done.

UST Tank Search for Buyers

UST Tank Search for Buyers – Removed tank with numerous holes, this allows the diesel fuel to leak into the surrounding soil.

Performing the UST tank search

How do you find an abandoned UST?

The best way to determine if there is an abandoned oil tank on the property, is to conduct a tank search.

How do you perform a tank search?

EcoTech first will perform a Tank Background Search, this entails a detailed examination of state and local databases, as applicable. Besides years of on-the-job experience, our technician conducts a visual inspection for product lines and fill or vent pipes, utilizes metal detectors and Terra, our specially trained Petroleum Detection K-9.

UST Tank Search for Buyers

UST Tank Search for Buyers – Terra finds a tank

UST Tank Search for Buyers

UST Tank Search for Buyers – The UST Terra found during the tank search, is now marked out for sampling.

What if there is an in-service tank already on the property, should I still do a tank search?

EcoTech highly recommends doing a tank search to rule out any additional tanks that may or may not be on the property. On average our tank searches cost $99.00, during the inspection period this is money well invested. Not only does a tank search give you peace of mind that there are no additional tanks on the property. It can also save you from years of worry or money spent if there is indeed an additional leaking tank on the property, which you now own and are responsible for cleaning up.

 

UST Tank Search for Sellers

UST Tank Search for Sellers – Common Questions

As a homeowner, you may be thinking about or are preparing to put your home up for sale. For some homeowners, you may want to perform a tank search to prepare yourself for any unforeseen surprises during the home inspection period. On the other hand, you may know that there is a tank on your property that was decommissioned and never registered with the DEQ or that there is an abandoned oil tank, but you don’t know where. These are some of the most common questions that we are asked regarding the tank inspection process and important information you should know before you sell.

What is an underground storage tank (UST)?

Homes, apartments, farms and some businesses that are currently or were previously heated using diesel heating oil, used an underground storage tank (UST) to store the heating oil. The USTs were usually buried in the yard, and copper tubing or steel piping was installed to deliver the diesel from the tank to the furnace. In Oregon, an estimated 100,000 USTs were installed for home heating.

UST Tank Search for Sellers

UST Tank Search for Sellers – Rendition of an underground storage tank (UST) buried in a yard, with the supply lines running into the home.

Why should I worry about an UST?

Underground storage tanks are made of steel, which are selected for their strength, not for their corrosion resistance. Therefore steel USTs rust through, given enough time. Like a roof, steel storage tanks have a life of about 25 years, and like a roof it is cheaper to replace the tank or convert to another heat source before it leaks and the damage is done.

UST Tank Search for Sellers

UST Tank Search for Sellers – Shot from interior of tank, many small holes in the UST, which will cause diesel fuel to leak into the surrounding soil.

Performing the UST tank search

How do you find an abandoned UST?

The best way to determine if there is an abandoned oil tank on the property, is to conduct a tank search. As the homeowner, you may also look for these tell-tale signs of an abandoned oil tank:

  • An Oil Fill Pipe, these are usually close to the ground and near where the furnace is located in your home.  The lid itself will usually indicate OIL in the center of the cap.
UST Tank Search for Sellers

UST Tank Search for Sellers – Fill pipes can appear in multiple places within a property, in a walkway, grass, driveway, and even under a deck are a few examples.

  • A Vent Pipe, this is usually attached to the home, about two to eight feet up the side of the house and it is 1.25 to 1.5 inches in diameter with a small vent cap on it.

 

UST Tank Search for Sellers

UST Tank Search for Sellers – 4 different types of vents and their locations.  Fill vents can come in different sizes, colors, and may be placed at varying sections of the home.

  • Product lines, may be found sticking out of the ground in the yard, in a crawlspace or basement floor.  Product lines may still be attached to a basement or crawlspace wall next to water or gas pipes.
UST Tank Search for Sellers

UST Tank Search for Sellers – Crimped product lines may appear as random pipes sticking out of a basement floor or out of the dirt near the home in the yard. A product line may also appear running up a wall in a basement or crawlspace, like the far right picture (the thin line on the right)

  • Patching, will be present on a basement floor, it appears as though a pipe has been removed and covered with concrete.  The patching may appear as a bad “patch job” with numerous bumps and grooves.
UST Tank Search for Sellers

UST Tank Search for Sellers – Patching on a basement floor.

How do you perform a tank search?

EcoTech first will perform a Tank Background Search, this entails a detailed examination of state and local databases, as applicable. Besides years of on-the-job experience, our technician conducts a visual inspection for product lines and fill or vent pipes, utilizes metal detectors and Terra, our specially trained Petroleum Detection K-9.

UST Tank Search for Sellers

UST Tank Search for Sellers – Terra finds a tank within a planter.

UST Tank Search for Sellers

UST Tank Search for Sellers – The tank that Terra found is marked out. The purple arrow indicates where the vent pipe has been removed from the siding. The red arrows indicate the length of the tank, marked with orange flags as well as the tip of the measuring tape.