Underground oil storage tanks (collectively referred to as USTs). were commonly used in Campbell River and Courtenay area through to the mid 70’s. Over time these were replaced by above-ground tanks as the older below-ground tanks became serviceable. As alternative heating sources such as natural gas, propane and electricity have become available, it is expected that the some of the older underground tanks are now in an abandoned state. This is a concern because the old tanks are a potential source of soil and groundwater contamination. Removing tanks will help to prevent pollution, protect the value of your property and meet potential insurance requirements.
Although the City of Campbell River and Courtenay does not have specific bylaws (unlike Victoria or Vancouver) that regulates underground oil tanks, the Environmental Protection Bylaw states that “No person shall cause or permit any Deleterious Material, or water containing Deleterious Material, to be deposited or released, directly or indirectly, including through Groundwater contamination, into a Watercourse or Storm Drainage System that would Foul the Watercourse of the Storm Drainage System.” Property owners in BC are legally responsible for complying with the provincial Environmental Management Act and the Contaminated Sites and Hazardous Waste Regulations.
Underground oil tanks have an average life span of 15-25 years. Older tanks can corrode and begin to leak hazardous materials into the environment. A small leak can have far-reaching impacts. Contamination of the soil and groundwater can occur and even pose a fire and explosion hazard under certain conditions.
The impact of a leak may violate local, provincial or federal laws and result in fines. Clean-up can be complicated in replacing an oil tank and supply lines, and in removing the contaminated soil. It could even require replacing part of your home’s foundation and/or treating groundwater.
The BC Fire Code (Section 184.108.40.206(1)) requires landowners follow proper engineering practices in the management of residential heating oil storage tanks.
The impacts of a leaky tank may reduce property values and the cost of clean-up could be more than your home is worth. Insurance may not cover the full cost of an expensive clean-up, or the damages from a leak on your property.
Bear in mind it is the responsibility of the home owner to deal with the impact of a leaky UST. If you suspect the property may have a UST then you are advised to arrange an inspection before you purchase the property.