Oil spill prompts call for tank inspections

A 500-gallon oil tank spill in a Wilton home’s crawl space last month has prompted the town’s Health Department to campaign for tank inspections.

Corroded legs caused the tank to rupture on Ridgefield Road in Wilton in early September,  and officials said at least two nearby drinking wells were contaminated. The crawl space had a dirt floor, as they typically do, and the oil seeped through the groundwater.

The state's Department of Energy and Environmental Protection warned residents within 1,000 feet of 715 Ridgefield Road to check their wells for contamination, but Health Department Director Barry Bogle is going further than that. He is posting an urgent message on the town’s website, wiltonct.org, that residents must have their tanks inspected.

The life of an oil tank under normal conditions is 20 years, Bogle said. Under stress, such as weather conditions when kept outside, corrosion could set in sooner.

Ground spills of oil are difficult to clean up.

“It is a significant danger to the ecology, to the aquatic life and the plant life,” Bogle said.

A quick way to spot a corroded tank if underground is to look for patches of dead grass just below the grade of the tank, he said.

“Call your oil provider or service technician and ask for an inspection,” Bogle said is the message he wants to get out.

He is uncertain how many homes in town heat with oil, but he hopes to have a number on that soon through a survey.

In the meantime, he recommended these tips from the DEEP:

  1. Ensure oil lines have a protective sleeve. The line that runs from your oil tank to your furnace should be encased in a protective sleeve to ensure that the oil line does not come in contact with the concrete floor.

  2. Inspect tank legs for damage. Over time, the tank legs may become unstable or the foundation can become uneven and could result in the tank legs failing.

  3. Check for leaks at filter and valves. Small drips are easily recognized and can be monitored for severity.

  4. Inspect tanks for rust or damage. Water and sludge may build up inside the tank and may cause corrosion of a tank from the inside out. This corrosion and deterioration is often not visible until the tank fails.

  5. Check seams for rust or damage. Failure at a tank seam is possible and can cause tank failure.

  6. Examine gauges for cracks or leaks. The oil gauge helps you identify how much oil you are using and should be used as a reference to determine how much oil you are using over time.

  7. Inspect fill pipe for leaks or drips. If there is a leak or drip in the fill pipe, you may not be getting all of the oil you’re paying for into your tank.