Date: September 1995
Subject: Removal/Abandonment of Residential Heating Oil Tanks & Other Heating Oil Tanks Under 2001 Gallons
Over the past six years, the Department has issued bulletins 88-3, 91-4 and 93-1 to address the when, who and how of the abandonment of small underground storage tanks. These bulletins addressed when tanks need to be abandoned, who is responsible for inspection, and how tanks are to be abandoned. The information contained in those bulletins is reprinted here.
The Uniform Construction Code is not a retrofit code and, therefore, it does not deal well with tanks that have been abandoned for some time. A rule of thumb for the applicability of the Uniform Construction Code is that either some type of construction activity has to be taking place or an unsafe structure has to be present.
A circumstance involving abandonment of underground storage tanks where construction activity is taking place is a conversion from fuel oil to natural gas. In this case, officials must ensure that the tank is abandoned in connection with the conversion. This can be done by requiring the contractor to either include the abandonment of the tank as part of the permit for the conversion or have another contractor obtain a permit for the abandonment as a prerequisite for the conversion permit. The only exception to this would be where the owner can demonstrate a legitimate continued use of the tank.
In cases where a tank is no longer in use and no construction activity is taking place, the only way officials can require the tank to be removed or abandoned is by calling it an unsafe structure. The safety of the tank is related to structural integrity. The condition of an underground storage tank is difficult, if not impossible to determine without excavating the tank. When such tanks are found, owners should be encouraged to either abandon them or remove them because, eventually the tank will become unsafe. In cases where the owner refuses, the official can request some verification of the condition of the tank.
When tanks are to be abandoned or removed, a demolition permit should be issued. The permit should contain specific details on how the tank is to be safeguarded.
Since abandonment procedures for underground storage tanks are contained in documents referenced in the adopted subcodes, no inspection responsibility has been specifically assigned for this work. Therefore, it is appropriate for the Construction Official to assign responsibility to one inspector licensed in the building, fire or plumbing subcode.
As mentioned above, the adopted subcodes do not contain provisions for abandoning tanks. However, there are provisions in both the BOCA National Fire Prevention Code Section F-3208.11 and NFIPA 30 Appendix C relating to the abandonment of underground storage tanks. These documents are referenced standards in the adopted subcodes and, therefore, in accordance with NJ.A.C. 5:23-36, are accepted engineering practice.
In order to provide additional guidance to code officials, the Department has expanded on the information-contained in the referenced standards. Either abandonment or removal is acceptable and the procedures listed below are typical of what is acceptable for removing or abandoning storage tanks. Only where special conditions exist can an inspector insist on removal. Such a case might be where well water is used and the soil needs to be checked for contamination.
For all of the methods listed, inspectors must ensure that fill and vent pipes for above ground (in basements) or underground tanks are removed when the tank is removed or abandoned. Several accidents have occurred where fuel oil deliveries have been made to incorrect addresses where a fill pipe was left in place after the tank was removed. Fuel oil has been pumped into a basement or the ground resulting in expensive clean-ups.