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by Susan McGrath

Oil-heat users can protect themselves by signing up for the state’s free pollution liability insurance through the Pollution Liability Insurance Agency. This insurance kicks in up to $60,000 when homeowners’ and other policies have been exhausted. The policy does not cover preexisting contamination, and only applies to “active” tanks – that is, those currently in use.

To get forms and more information, call PLIA at (800) 822-3905.

For a free packet of information on underground storage tanks, call the State Department of Ecology. The appropriate DOE phone numbers are: Northwest Washington, (206) 649-7000; Southwest Washington, (360) 407-6300; Central Washington, (509) 575-2491; Eastern Washington, (509) 456-2926.

To determine what regulations apply in your jurisdiction relating to decommissioning a heating oil tank, contact your local fire marshal.

Is your tank leaking?

How do you know whether your elderly home-heating oil tank is leaking? Do you seem to be burning more oil than you used to? Can you smell oil in the basement or garden? If so, have an expert check it out.

How can you tell if a leak is significant in the eyes of the law? The Department of Ecology say you should call your county emergency management office if:

— the heating oil has reached adjoining properties;

— the heating oil has affected a well, surface or ground water, or;

— the heating oil has caused extensive soil contamination.

This last situation is a little subjective, but a tank service company also can help you determine whether you need to report a leak. If the leak is significant, you’ll need to clean it up. A tank service company can usually do this for you. It puts the firm in a potential conflict of interest position, however, since it will stand to make more on a bigger job.

Phil Suetens, owner of a tank service company, offers this advice: Hire a third party such as another tank service company worker to determine the extent of contamination and how much soil must be removed. When the job is done, the third party can confirm that it has been done completely.

Copyright © 1997 The Seattle Times Company
Features News: Sunday, February 16, 1997

The Seattle Times