Remove an Oil Tank : How to remove an oil tank effectively

How to remove an oil tank that was previously filled in place

I get this question all the time from clients who are trying to sell their house with a previously filled oil tank. Maybe they bought the house with the tank already filled or they had the oil tank filled a few years ago. They even have all the “proper” documents from the township and the contractor who did the work.

A few years ago it was very popular to have your oil tank filled in place. For many reasons, it was cheaper then removing the tank completely, it was the less intrusive option, it was also less likely to find a problem (leak) if there was one.

Fast forward to 2017, buyers market, slow economy, smarter buyers, stricter lending rules and more informed insurance companies. Everyone involved with the purchase of a new home in NJ wants all oil tanks out of the ground. Is it because a new law came into effect? No actually no new laws have been written about oil tanks in NJ for a very long time. And that is the problem.

remove oil tankWhen everyone was filling their oil tanks with sand, foam, concrete or stone they thought they were doing the right thing. The process would go like this. Client would hire a contractor to fill their oil tank. The contractor would file for permits and set the inspection with the township inspector. The contractor would hand dig a 4 x 4 hole down to the top of the tank. They would then cut a small hole in the top of the tank. Remove any liquids left inside the tank then enter to scrape down the sludge and dispose of that. Wipe the tank clean and have the inspector look inside from the small 4 x 4 hole. Inspector would give the green light to fill the tank which would get done next. Contractor would then backfill the hole and lay seed and hay down on the small piece of earth that was disturbed. A certificate from the contractor and a copy of the passed inspection sticker would be given to the client at the end of the job.

Now let me point out the issues with this entire process.

  1. It is not required by the township or the state to take soil samples around the tank before it was filled in place!
  2. No inspector can tell if an oil tank leaked by staring down a tiny hole cut into the top of it.
  3. The only time the inspection would fall is when water would pour into the oil tank from corrosion holes in the bottom of it. So if the groundwater table was very low where you lived then most likely water would not rush into the holes and the inspection would pass.

This is why MANY oil tanks were filled in place even though there was a major leak! Without pulling the tank out of the ground completely and or take soil samples then its impossible to know if said tank is leaking.

So now the client has all the “proper” documentation for an oil tank was actually leaking and they hand that off to the buyer who thinks this is great. The tank is a non issue. WRONG.

They find out the hard way when they decide to add that addition to the house and have to remove the tank because it is sitting right where the new addition is going. So they hire a contractor to remove the previously filled underground oil tank. They tank is pulled out of the ground and is found out to be leaking! No it becomes the new buyers problem.

This has happened SO MANY times that everyone is catching on to it and trying to avoid it. Realtors, attorneys, insurance companies, lenders and buyers have all heard the story of the tank that was supposed to be abandoned properly.


Buyer – Have the oil tank removed completely BEFORE the purchase of the house. If the sellers do not have the money you could offer to pay a portion if not all. If they refuse to pull the tank then the next best option would be to take soil samples around the tank.

Seller – If you have a tank that was previously filled in place then I would highly recommend removing the tank before the house is put on the market. If you wait then you run the risk of losing the buyer. Removing the tank and dealing with any environmental concerns if necessary takes time. Buyers will have mortgage commitments and deadlines that will have to be met.

Call Qualified with any questions concerning previously filled oil tanks.

(877) 875-2010
Article written by Teddy Slack, Jr. (President)