Aboveground heating oil tank failures occur infrequently, and few of these have any harmful impact. Most tank failures become apparent as wet spots on the tank exterior or as slow, weeping drips from the tank bottom. These leaks are usually noticed by a homeowner or Service Technician and the tank is replaced before any significant damage is done.

Occasionally, a slow leak will seep unnoticed into a dirt floor, through a crack in a cement floor, or from a buried oil supply line and result in significant environmental damage. Most such events could have been avoided if the tank system had been inspected regularly.

Catastrophic failure is the more likely cause of significant environmental damage. Most catastrophic failures occur during the delivery process, when the tank is subjected to the stress of being fill at 60 gallons per minute - or more. In these circumstances, there is usually a problem that hampers the proper operation of the vent and causes the tank to become pressurized.

Oilheat Industry leaders are unanimous is saying that regular inspection of aboveground heating oil tank systems is a "must". Keep in mind that the tank system includes the fill and vent piping and the oil supply line that feeds oil to the burner. A proactive approach to inspecting and evaluating your customers' tank systems can head off catastrophic tank failures before they happen and avoid a nightmare scenario for you and your customer.

The National Oilheat Research Alliance (NORA) provides a wealth of tank information in its publication: "Heating Oil Storage Tanks - Guide for Quality Installation and Maintenance". (Visit www.nora-oilheat.org for more information) NORA recommends three levels of tank inspections and offers written inspection guidelines for Service Technicians. NORA makes the point that routine inspections afford the opportunity to find and correct problems with tanks and tank system components before they cause financial or environmental problems.

NORA also recommends that spill containment trays be installed with all indoor oil storage tanks. These are specially designed plastic "pans" or "trays", placed underneath indoor tanks, that will prevent stains on the floor from minor drips or fitting leaks. The retrofit pans are about 14 inches wide and can be slipped underneath existing tanks - they will hold about 15 gallons. The trays are larger and a new tank can be set inside them - containment trays can hold up to 50 gallons. Either choice is an inexpensive and worthwhile safety measure.

While you do not own the customers' tanks, the more you know about them, the better off you will be. There is no comfort in delivering oil into a tank that you know nothing about. You need to make a commitment to inspect all of the tanks that you deliver to. By taking a proactive approach to inspecting your customers' tanks, you will protect your customers and your company by reducing the chances for tank system failures.

We know that the task of recording and storing information about hundreds or thousands of your customers' tanks can be daunting. To help make this challenge easier, we have created a Tank Inspection and Evaluation System to help Dealers manage key safety information for oil storage tanks. It's called TANK CHECK™ and it will highlight tank system deficiencies that need corrective action. TANK CHECK™ is a valuable tool that can help both Oilheat Dealers and tank owners keep track of oil storage tank safety issues. Please see the Heating Oil Tank Inspection section of this website for more information about TANK CHECK™ or visit www.tankcheck.com.