With the weather getting cooler many households will soon be getting heating oil delivered ready for the winter. The Environment Agency is urging people to check their oil tanks to reduce the risk of damage to the environment and avoid costly clean up bills.
Leaked oil can end up in groundwater supplies and drains, many of which lead directly into rivers, streams, lakes and even garden ponds.
Oil is poisonous to fish, other wildlife and smothers plants – just two litres of oil could seriously pollute the volume of fresh water needed to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool. Our vital drinking water supplies can also come from the same surface and groundwater so protection is important.
Steve Brown from the Environment Agency said: “Heating oil can cause serious problems if it gets into the water environment. But it’s not just the cost of losing the oil that can be expensive, clean up costs can be large and are not always covered by household insurance policies.
“This is why it is vital that oil is only ever stored in tanks that are in good condition. Both the tank and associated pipe work should be regularly inspected and people should never buy more oil than they can safely store.”
It is recommended that owners of heating oil tanks should take the following action to ensure they are safe for use:
· Site tanks as far away as possible from drains, streams, ponds, boreholes, wells and springs.
· Inspect tanks, pipes and other equipment for leaks, damage and interference on a regular basis. Any problems should be fixed as soon as possible by an Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) technician. http://www.oftec.org.uk/
· Arrange for the boiler and tank to be serviced at least once a year by an (OFTEC) technician. This should include any underground pipe work.
· Monitor how much oil is being used. If the volume of oil being used suddenly increases, there could be a leak.
· Supervise oil deliveries. People should never allow their tank to be overfilled and should not order more oil than they can safely store.
· Check home insurance policies cover clean up costs on the property, neighbouring land and any associated environmental pollution. Always notify insurers immediately in the event of a spill or suspected spill and report it to the Environment Agency 24 hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.
· If a tank starts leaking householders should try to stop the oil soaking into the ground or going down drains. They should contact their insurance company to arrange for an OFTEC technician or UKSpill-accredited clean-up company to attend http://www.ukspill.org/
· Secondary containment (such as a bund) will prevent oil from escaping into the environment if a leak occurs. This is a legal requirement for domestic tanks which store more than 3,500 litres.
To report an oil spill people should contact the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 80 70 60.