Oil Spills at Home

If you are a regular customer, that buys and stores heating oil Shropshire, from fuel delivery companies, it is vital that you are storing your fuel correctly and safely. A spill of diesel or kerosene from your oil tank can be incredibly dangerous for the environment, human health and the water environment.

Reasons an Oil Tank Might Leak

Oil tanks can leak for a variety of different reasons, the most common are:

  • Failure of components at the boiler end of the system, such as flexible hoses
  • Failures of the tank body
  • Damage to equipment on the tank such as sight gauges
  • Damage to or wear-and-tear of fuel feed lines

Metal tanks can rust though, often at their bases. Plastic tanks however, can split due to inherent defect or age/wear-and-tear and spills can occur when oil is being delivered.

Who is Responsible?

Any person or persons who uses, stores, transports, fills or manufactures any hazardous substances, such as oil, has a direct responsibility to make sure that the substance is properly contained and used in a way that won’t result in a release into the environment. They also have a responsibility to clean-up any spills that occur and deal with the consequences of the release on the environment.

Whether you occupy or own premises that have a domestic oi tank, you are strongly advised to check with your insurance company that you have the right home insurance in place in order to cover costs associated with any and all aspects of the assessment and clean-up of a spill, and any consequences of migration of the spill through the ground.

What to Do If There’s A Spill or a Leak

If you do suspect that there is an oil leak at home, you need to act quickly and contact your insurance provider. Don’t put off taking action, the quicker the leak can be dealt with, the less oil will be lost, and any further damage can be minimised.

Once a contractor has been appointed to deal with the situation, follow these steps:

  • If there is a strong smell of oil in your home, properly ventilate the area by opening windows and doors and contact the Environmental Health Department at your local Council for advice
  • Keep children and pets away from any spills
  • Switch off your oil supply at the tank
  • Try to find out where the leak is coming from
  • Immediately, try to stop it at the source of the leak – put a bucket or contained under dripping oil to catch it
  • Prevent the spilled oil from spreading and importantly, prevent it from getting into drains and waterways – you can use absorbing material such as earth, sand, cat litter or commercial products
  • Try and work out how much oil has been lost, check the level on the tank and think about how much you use and when you last had a delivery
  • If the oil has or could have entered drains or the water environment (groundwater, burns, ponds loughs, rivers, estuaries or coastal waters) you must contact the Environment Agency immediately
  • If your water supply or pipework may have been affected, don’t drink the water
  • Arrange for any remaining fuel in the tank to be removed by a fuel supplier – don’t try to do this yourself and don’t store oil in a building, shed or vehicle

Clean-up Requirements

If the spill has contaminated the ground, the soil will need to be cleaned up along with any floating oil and any of the affected waterways.

Clean-up works will generally only be carried out by specialist environmental contractors. Unless your spill is a minor spill, don’t try to clean-up the oil yourself, given the potential health risks and the specialist nature of remediation and waste disposal.

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