A recent news story about vandals flooding a Conservative MP’s garden with 1,300 litres of heating oil is a reminder of how important it is to ensure that you are aware of what to do in case of an oil spillage. Although these are isolated incidents, oil spills can cause environmental damage and it is therefore beneficial for all our customers to be aware of what to do should you experience a spillage as quick and effective action will limit the damage.
First, it is always important to look out for signs of corrosion or damage. If you can see dark patches around the outside of the tank, or smell an unusual odour this could indicate that the tank has a leak.
Most of us have an annual service on our boilers so it’s good practice to arrange a service on your storage tank at the same time. Like boilers, tanks have a limited working life. Most tanks have an expected working life of approximately 20 years, so if your tank is nearing this age, it may be wise to start thinking about replacing it.
If you do detect a leak, then you must know how to close the tank to stop the leak from getting worse.
Make sure that you know where the shutoff valve is located and how to turn it off. You can do this by contacting your local heating oil supplier or tank manufacturer.
If your oil tank is plastic and has a split, soap can be used to temporarily seal the crack. Clay based sealing putty is also good to use.
If space allows, put a container such as a bucket underneath the leak to collect the spill.
If the spill has occurred on a hard non porous surface like asphalt, then use dry cloths, sand, earth or cat litter (the same as you would use in a cat litter tray). Once the oil has been absorbed, use gloves and a shovel to put the material into a sealed bin bag.
It is possible to buy ‘Spill Kit’s which contain absorbent pads, disposable bags and ties to aid in the clean-up of oil spills.
Do not use detergents or a hose to wash spilt oil away as this will make the pollution worse and spread the contamination.
Notify your insurance company that you have had a spill. It is a good idea to check that your home contents insurance policy covers you for loss of oil and pollution clean-up costs. Unfortunately many policy holders do not realise that their insurance does not cover them when they have a spill which can leave them with hefty bills to pay and heavily polluted ground which may affect your property value.
If the spillage is quite large or it has seeped into waterways such as ponds, lakes, ditches, streams, or rivers, contact the Environment Agency for advice. Plants, animals and fish that live in the water can be poisoned or suffocated. It can also affect your home and garden by killing your lawn and plants and damage the structure of your house. Therefore if oil has soaked into the ground you should arrange for a professional clean up company to remove all contaminated soil.
Do not attempt to repair your tank yourself.
Contact your tank installer or engineer urgently.
The UK Environment Agency has produced this helpful pdf on what to do in the case of a domestic oil spill.
For more information on our spill kits, servicing your boiler or maintaining your heating oil tanks please contact your local depot where our representatives will be happy to help.