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How EPA Standards Affect Property Owners Where A Home Oil Tank Leaked

In January 2009, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality began using federal standards which affect many of the 1,200 to 2,000 underground heating oil tanks that are decommissioned statewide each year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reclassified naphthalene and ethylbenzene from non-carcinogens to carcinogens. Naphthalene and ethylbenzene are chemical compounds commonly found in home heating oil. These standards in many cases require soil removal as part of cleanup and decommissioning of HOTs to protect human health and the environment.

Soil removal prevents these volatile, toxic chemicals from moving into nearby and overlying buildings.

The following questions and answers provide information about how these standards affect property owners with leaking HOTs. 

​The federal Agency for Toxics Substances and Disease Registry defines a carcinogen as a chemical capable of causing cancer. For information about naphthalene and ethylbenzene, and other contaminants:

​​DEQ has not changed the requirements for HOT decommissioning. Decommissioning refers to pumping out, wiping down and cleaning the tank interior, or the complete removal of the tank and its associated piping from the ground, plus soil sampling.

DEQ continues to require site soil sampling and analysis for all contaminants of concern. Based on the amount of contamination present on your property, you may need to remove contaminated soil.

Because all site investigations are unique, it’s essential to coordinate with your DEQ-licensed HOT service provider to insure that conditions on your property are protective of human health and the environment.

A current list of HOT service providers is available.

​If you have access to any of the documentation from the time when the tank was decommissioned, you should review that report for the presence of naphthalene and ethylbenzene in excess of the new standards.

​​Without a report showing documented contamination levels at your property, it’s not possible to know what was present during the original assessment. However, depending on the type of certification and closure submitted to DEQ, it’s possible to have an estimate of what was present at your site.

DEQ’s Leaking Underground Storage Tank database provides information on the type of assessment performed on the property.

  • Click here to type in the site address or file number.
  • Scroll down to the “General Site Information” section and review the information presented in the ‘Site Type’ cell.
  • If the property is shown as being a risked-based closure (rather than a soil matrix or generic remedy closure) then you may have naphthalene and/or ethylbenzene present at levels that do not meet the new standards.

To receive a copy of the report, contact the DEQ HOT licensed service provider who conducted the work. If the service provider cannot provide a copy of the report, contact DEQ’s Heating Oil Tank program.

Depending on the assessment date, the closed file may be stored offsite. If this is the case, DEQ will have the file delivered to the DEQ office. There’s a fee associated with retrieving the archived file and copying/scanning the report.

DEQ is not reopening HOT sites that were closed according to the rules and regulations at the time of the assessment and certification. If site conditions at your property have not changed, DEQ will not require you or the licensed DEQ service provider who did the work to do additional work.

DEQ may require additional work if the site was/is redeveloped or new information indicates that the original assessment did not adequately characterize site conditions.

If you’re concerned with the potential risk associated with remaining contamination on your property, first, review the original file and lab results to see if potential risk exists; if so, you may want to consider conducting additional assessment. Additional assessment may include soil, gas or indoor air sampling to assess current site conditions.