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oil tank leaked underground... we wonder what it will cost to clean up
Posted by: space-time
Date: July 02, 2013 05:56PM
to cut a log story short (the story is somewhat interesting, honest people, trying to make it but barely making it, mortgage under water yet they continue to stay and pay), now they replaced the underground oil tank with a new one (above ground) and next day the same company took the old tank out, and it turns out this one leaked. They had a pressure test done 5 years ago when the bought the house, and apparently the leak was small enough that they didn't notice a significant drop in the oil level.

Now here is the deal: in a few days the company will come back to excavate more to decontaminate the area. the cost is unknown yet. The have some soft of insurance with $2500 deductible (already paid) and now they are covered up to $100k, but if it costs more than $100k they have to pay.

Some questions:

Can a clean up cost that much? I heard to raise a house post Sandy is around $60-70k, but how much can it cost to excavate some soil? colleague is building a pool ($50k), and that includes cement, tiles, pumps, etc. I wonder if they end up excavating much more than a pool worth of stuff...

second question is how can they make sure the company excavates/decontaminates only the proper area and they don't end up doing more work than necessary?

FWIW: the oil tank was probably as old as the house (40 years?) and the only good news so far is that the soil was kind of "clay" so hopefully the oil didn't spread too far or didn't go down enough to reach the water level.

If it end up much more than $100k they are considering walking out since they cannot afford it. The irony is they just made a $10k loan (and used another 2k savings) to replace the roof (7k) and this tank (5k).

I wish I could help them... not sure what to do except offer housing in case they cannot make it and decide to abandone the house (hopefully it will not be that bad)


EDIT: they were also told they should have done this in 2009 since the state of NJ had some funds and people didn't have to pay for cleaning... but they didn't know, they didn't have cash anyway, and now it is too late...



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/02/2013 06:49PM by space-time.
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Re: oil tank leaked underground... we wonder what it will cost to clean up
Posted by: andypie48
Date: July 02, 2013 06:06PM
The major cost is taking the soil to an approved hazardous waste site for disposal.
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Re: oil tank leaked underground... we wonder what it will cost to clean up
Posted by: davester
Date: July 02, 2013 06:15PM
I do environmental cleanup (mostly) for a living. If this is just a home heating oil tank and it's only started leaking within the last 5 years into underlying clay then it's unlikely that the cleanup would approach $100,000 because the toxicity of heating oil is generally low and if the free product in the tank pit is removed then the natural soil bacteria will probably eventually complete the job of cleanup (however, you still need to remove any soil that is above certain levels of contamination. This assumes that there are no nearby major drinking water wells to contaminate.

To ensure that they don't get ripped off, they should ask a lot of questions of both the consultant scoping the cleanup, and the regulatory agency that has oversight over the case. New Jersey has very specific state regulations regarding petroleum cleanup and they generally take a pretty reasonable health-risk-based approach to it. Your friends need to get themselves involved in the process, ensure that the consultant is an experienced and licensed professional engineer (PE) or professional geologist (PG), and that there is written agreement from the regulator regarding cleanup methods and scope. You don't want them doing either too much (waste of money) or too little (major liability when it comes to selling the house later). They need to ask the consultant who the regulator is and then call the regulator before moving ahead with any additional work.



"In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion." (1987) -- Carl Sagan



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/02/2013 06:17PM by davester.
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Re: oil tank leaked underground... we wonder what it will cost to clean up
Posted by: space-time
Date: July 02, 2013 06:36PM
davester, many many thanks. I really appreciate your advice.
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Re: oil tank leaked underground... we wonder what it will cost to clean up
Posted by: mattkime
Date: July 02, 2013 07:37PM
no subject too off topic!



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Re: oil tank leaked underground... we wonder what it will cost to clean up
Posted by: Forrest
Date: July 03, 2013 06:49AM
A comment about your insurance - it's too late to raise it for this claim, but you can raise the $100000 liability limit to $300000 limit very cheaply. I did this a few days ago and the increase was just $34 per year.
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Re: oil tank leaked underground... we wonder what it will cost to clean up
Posted by: 3d
Date: July 03, 2013 08:03AM
When converting my basement boiler from oil to gas a small amount of oil (less than a quart) spilled onto the floor. The basement stank for about a month. That sh1te is no joke. Good luck with the cleanup.
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