Vancouver OIl Tanks - what you need to know

Introduction to Vancouver Homes and Oil Tanks

Until the 1960s, many Vancouver homes used oil-burning furnaces, with the oil stored in either an above-ground storage tank or an underground storage tank (UST) buried in the yard. These would be periodically filled by tanker trucks.

Vancouver Oil Tanks
As the residents began making the switch to alternative heating sources such as natural gas, electricity and propane, oil furnaces that were left unused for more than two years were required to be either removed or decommissioned.

At the time, both these methods were deemed suitable. However, to be decommissioned correctly, the galvanized steel tanks were supposed to be drained of all their oil. Unfortunately, this wasn’t always the case, and many homeowners are now dealing with the issues this practice caused.

The Issue

Over time, the galvanized steel starts to break down leaving the potential for an oil leak. This is a cause for concern, as they are a potential source of contamination of soil and groundwater, and they can also pose a fire and explosion hazard under certain conditions.

Here in Vancouver, if an underground oil tank is found on your property the tank needs to be located and removed immediately, with contaminated soil being removed and replaced.

Why you should remove a residential oil storage tank?

  • Improves the environmental conditions of the property
  • Satisfies a lender, prospective purchaser, insurance agent or local government
  • Remove high-risk conditions
  • Avoid a negative impact on property value
  • Detect a tank on your property

Who is responsible and what can I do to avoid liability and mitigate risk?

If you purchase a home which has an underground oil tank, knowingly or not, you are potentially liable for any future cleanup costs.

Here are some of the things you could do to help:

  1. Speak to your REALTOR. Those of us who have worked in Vancouver for many years have come across many different challenges when it comes to oil tank removal.

  2. Have the property inspected by a professional. They will bring the correct tools to identify and locate an oil tank.

  3. Work with your Realtor to ensure purchasing offers are subject to inspection by a building inspector and/or underground storage tank locator

  4. Arrange for an environmental consultant to provide an estimate for removal, investigation and/or remediation and include this as a discount on the purchase price.

  5. Include the tank removal and remediation as a condition of sale

What if the property you’re selling has an underground oil tank that hasn’t been removed?

It’s very important you follow the local bylaws and rules. As the property owner, it's your responsibility to confirm if there's an oil tank by hiring a contractor to search the property.

Failure to do so, means you may become liable for future cleanup costs.

If a tank is located, there are two common solutions:

1. Remove the tank.

2. Abandon the tank in place if the City agrees that removing it isn't practical (this could be due to it being located underneath a permanent structure)

What happens if you buy a home with an oil tank

If an oil tank is found, you as the buyer may not be able to get adequate insurance on the property. Without the correct insurance, it’s unlikely the bank will approve your mortgage. This would likely be expensive and stressful.
Environment remediation. Another costly experience would be encountered if a leaking oil tank has contaminated the lot (and maybe your neighbours’ lot too.) This remediation will be your responsibility as the homeowner.

As a seller or buyer, this may all sound rather scary. But fear not, there is a very safe and simple method to deal with such a scenario - work with an experienced REALTOR and contact an expert to carry out an oil tank inspection.

If you’d like more information about oil tank removal, watch our video with Action Oil Tanks below, and contact me for further information about Vancouver Oil Tank Removal.


How much does oil tank remediation cost?

For more information on the remediation process and costs, contact a local technician such as Action Oil Tanks.

When were oil tanks used?

Many homes built between the 1920s and 1960s used oil as a heating fuel, and the underground oil tanks were buried close to houses.

When did they stop using underground oil tanks?

In the 1960s, as alternative heating methods increased in popularity oil tanks were used and installed less and less.

Do I have to remove an underground oil tank?

The B.C. Fire Code and bylaws of 12 municipalities (including the City of Vancouver) all essentially require that out-of-service underground oil storage tanks (USTs) be removed and that all contaminated soil must be removed and replaced with clean fill.

How long does it take to remove an oil tank?

If there are no unexpected circumstances, it usually takes between 1 and 1 1/2 days to remove a buried oil tank.