The current Heating Oil Tank Program started on March 15, 2000. This program allows third party certification of cleanups and decommissionings of heating oil tanks by DEQ licensed service providers. When a licensed contractor completes a cleanup or decommissioning, the company submits a certification to the Department. The Department will then issue a letter to the tank owner registering the contractor's certification. The combination of the contractor's certification and DEQ's registration is equivalent to the "No Further Action" letter that the DEQ used to issue.
Guidance for homeowners
Cleanup guidance and decommissioning guidance for homeowners
Homeowners occasionally ask DEQ if they can clean up contamination from a heating oil tank release and if they can decommission their own heating oil tank. It is legal for a homeowner to clean up soil and groundwater from a HOT release and to decommission their HOT, assuming they perform the work themselves and comply with all applicable local, state and federal rules. It is not legal to complete the work by serving as a general contractor and hiring subcontractors to complete portions of the job. To do so transfers liability for improper work by the subcontractors to the homeowner.
Further, homeowners planning to contract the cleanup or decommissioning work out must contract with a licensed HOT Tank Services Provider so that the contractor is complying with the HOT Tank Service Provider law and rules found in Oregon Revised Statutes 466.862 and Oregon Administrative Rules Chapter 340 - Division 163.
Before deciding to cleanup or decommission a HOT, DEQ encourages homeowners to read the provided guides to appreciate the full extent of applicable requirements and recommended practices, construction and safety skills and operation of specialized equipment needed to complete the decommissioning in a timely and safe manner.
Preparing a HOT decommissioning report or a HOT soil matrix cleanup report
The quality and completeness of the HOT decommissioning report and a HOT soil matrix cleanup report submitted by contractors, or homeowners who do their own work, are important factors in how responsive DEQ can be in registering these reports. DEQ has developed this "Model" HOT voluntary decommissioning report and "Model" HOT soil matrix cleanup report to provide an example of complete reports. Many of the pages are DEQ provided forms where the requested information needs to be completely filled in. Many of the attachments are copies of documents received from laboratories or from treatment and disposal companies handling waste or receiving contaminated materials.
The following is a brief synopsis of the HOT Program’s requirements regarding sampling, sample analysis, and report presentation. The intent is to provide service providers with a general overview of the HOT Program’s requirements. This is not intended to be a complete presentation of HOT Program requirements.
Frequently asked questions
For the purposes of DEQ's program, a heating oil tank is an underground tank used for storing heating fuel for use on site. The heating oil tank is part of a heating oil system that should be maintained and, if necessary, replaced just as roofs, appliances, furnaces and water heaters that require on-going maintenance and are replaced when they are no longer useful. The useful life of an unprotected steel tank is about 20 years.
Oregon law (ORS 466.878) requires the owner to pump out all heating oil from an abandoned (unused) underground heating oil tank when:
- The tank is no longer used as a heating source.
- The tank has been replaced with a new one.
- The home or business is sold.
Please refer to: Requirements for Heating Oil Tanks No Longer in Use
Over the past several years, DEQ has made a concerted effort to make summary information from its files on tanks and hazardous substance-contaminated sites available over the Internet. That said, contractors and homeowners must realize that the data is incomplete in the sense that not every tank (i.e., residential heating oil tank, small tank or farm tank) and contaminated site (most reporting systems exclude certain small releases and often exclude residential releases) is regulated by DEQ. Notwithstanding these limitations, however, very useful information can be gleaned by initially searching the three on-line databases listed below.
DEQ offers three bits of advice in using the databases:
- When using the databases for the first time, please review the instructions for use that come with each database;
- Computers search for exact matches, therefore, put in only the information that you are positive about; and
- In conducting computer searches, less information to match is often better than too much information to match (while you may have to review 20 results from the search to find the one site you are looking for, it's more likely that the site will show up on the list of 20 sites).
The following databases are available via the "Data and Reports" link above:
Environmental Cleanup Site Databases
Searchable databases of Oregon sites with known or suspected hazardous substance contamination. Includes sites that have already been cleaned up.Facility Profiler
A GIS mapping application showing which of DEQ's environmental programs (air quality, water quality or land quality) are active at given locations.Leaking UST Cleanup Site Database
Searchable database of Oregon sites that have had a release of petroleum products from an underground storage tank, including a heating oil tank. Includes sites that have already been cleaned up.
To locate a buried tank first try to find the fill pipe (where fuel was delivered by the fuel truck) or the vent pipe. The fill pipe will often be close to the ground over the tank. The vent pipe is usually visible up the side of the house 2 feet to 8 feet above the ground surface. Each set of pipes leads to the top of the tank, which is typically 2 feet below the ground. Attempt to locate the furnace that was fueled by the heating oil tank, and track the piping out through the foundation to the tank.
You can also determine whether other homes in the area had heating oil tanks. If adjacent homes built during the same time have tanks, then it is likely that there may be a tank on your property.
If the information provided does not answer your question(s), you may call, 503-229-6170 and ask to speak to a HOT project manager, or toll-free by calling, 1-800-742-7878, and ask to be transferred to the HOT program.
The files will not be reopened because of a rule change. Typically, the only time a file is reopened is when new or undisclosed facts show that the cleanup does not comply with rules in place at the time of cleanup.
It has come to DEQ's attention that contractors are being asked to recertify sites that have previously been issued a No Further Action letter by DEQ prior to 2/17/2000 or been certified as meeting standards by a contractor after 2/17/2000. The issue becomes what reliance, if any, can contractors and/or homeowners place on those earlier decommissioning or cleanup determinations. The advice DEQ has been giving is that the earlier determinations remain valid if:
- No evidence exists to suggest a new release has occurred.
- New site assessment data is consistent with the data submitted and relied on to make the earlier determination.
- DEQ has not challenged the reliability of the earlier data through an enforcement action.
If the contractors or homeowners have any questions about the new information, they should contact the HOT technical staff for assistance or send an email.
On a related matter, DEQ is occasionally asked how long the results from a site assessment are valid where an active tank remains in the ground. Because new spills or releases from an active tank can occur at any time, DEQ advises that site assessment samples should be relied on for no more than 90 days. After 90 days it is advisable for new assessment data to be collected. DEQ will not accept site assessment data that is more than 90 days old if used to certify a decommissioning or cleanup.
In the Oregon law directing DEQ to establish a contractor certification program for HOT decommissionings and cleanups, DEQ must establish provisions to reject certifications and require additional work to correct deficiencies when projects don't meet standards. When adopting the heating oil tank rules in February 2000, the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission established four criteria for rejecting certifications:
- Lack of information or data to support a finding of compliance (such as inadequate sampling to define magnitude and extent of contamination or failing to analyze impacts to groundwater or indoor air, when those resources are affected).
- Compliance determination is not correct, based on information provided.
- Information provided does not accurately represent site conditions.
- There is a violation of applicable rules.
Upon completing an audit and concluding that the project is not complete, DEQ sends out a letter to the contractor, with a copy to the homeowner, which identifies the additional work required to bring the site into compliance with the HOT rules. DEQ reminds contractors that OAR 340-163-0070(5) places the responsibility for any additional work resulting from the rejection of a certified report on the contractor or its errors and omissions insurer, not the property owner. However, completion of any additional work required by DEQ must be coordinated with the property owner.
Unless otherwise stated or agreed to in writing, DEQ expects that contractors will complete the additional work within 30 days and report their actions to DEQ. If contractors fail to complete the additional work in the time given, DEQ may take one or more of the following steps:
- Deny renewal of a contractor's license, or suspend or revoke an existing license,
- Advise the homeowner to file a claim with the Construction Contractor Board and/or against the errors and omissions insurance policy required by DEQ rules.
- Take enforcement action, including imposing a civil penalty.
If contractors have any questions regarding the additional work required in a rejection letter, contractors should immediately contact the HOT staff person listed in the letter. HOT project managers are available to discuss non-compliance issues and proposed solutions to get sites certified, registered and files closed. Similarly, if the additional work cannot be completed within 30 days, the reasons for needing additional time should be sent to DEQ along with a proposed work schedule. DEQ expects contractors to react promptly to its rejection letters, otherwise appropriate enforcement actions will be taken.