Oil spills at home and oil leaks on your property

Whilst doing research for this article today a news story about 38 locations and towns around Ireland’s coasts still are pumping raw untreated sewage into our seas and waterways !!


This was being sold by the EPA as an ‘improvement’ from the 44 locations pumping sewage into the sea a year ago so its no wonder I could find little or no advice from the EPA and local authorities about dealing with oil spills at home and on your property. The best advice was to be found on Northern Ireland Government websites and UK Government web pages so what do you do if you have an oil spill or oil leak at home in Ireland?  If your of the ‘millennial’ generation you will have grown up being taught to take care of your environment and our land and waterways are a finite resource not to be taken for granted.


Oil, kerosene fuel, diesel spills

Oil based products of any kind are dangerous to human and wildlife whether the spill occurs on water or land this page contains tips on what to do if an oil spill or leak occurs…..

Reasons an oil tank or heating system might leak…

Boiler or Burner failure of components at the boiler end of the system, such as flexible hoses that feed fuel to the burner unit. Damaged bleed valves on the burner can allow a constant small ‘drip, drip’ type of leak that left unattended builds up to a more serious oil spill situation.

Your oil or heating tank may leak due to failures of the tank body.

Metal tanks rust through, particularly if they are the older buried oil tank type as no thought was given to ground water or tank lifespan when metal tanks were commonly used. Above ground metal tanks rust around the base of the tank.

Plastic tanks can split due to inherent defect.  Plastic tanks generally have a lifespan of 8 to 12 years. Plastic utilized in oil tanks is generally high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Plastic age/wear and tear occurs from sunlight which degrades plastics over time and large fills of the tank as it ages cause splits and then spills can occur when oil is delivered.
Other damage not specific to the tank type but to equipment on the tank such as sight or ‘depth’ gauges, damage to fuel feed lines from the tank to the heating appliance or ‘boiler’ unit.

TIP*  When replacing a damaged or leaking tank check out investing in a ‘bunded’ oil tank which is in effect a double skin tank system where the outer tank or ‘skin’ can carry a capacity of 110% of the inner tanks fill amount.


Where the responsibility lies when you have an oil leak

Commercial enterprises, businesses and anyone who uses, stores, fills, transports or manufactures oils knows that they bare the responsibility for hazardous substances like oil and they will have spill kits on hand for containment. There employees will have undergone training as how to respond to an oil spill or leak and the use of spill kit equipment to contain a leak on or off their premises. This also translates to home owners albeit with out the training the home owner has a responsibility to make sure the substance is contained and is not being used in a way that results in contamination of the environment. Home owners also are responsible to cleanup any spills that occur and deal with any consequences of the oil leak. The lack of the training and instruction on how to deal with an oil spill at home hopefully will make the tips and guide contained in this article useful for home owners and property owners that are presented with an oil leak or oil spill problem. Lets face the fact its probably not something you are having to deal with on a regular basis or your home would be like the Exon Valdez!


Oil spills and home insurance


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Cleaning up even minor oil spills can be a costly affair so our advice is to check with your insurance company that you have adequate home insurance in place to cover costs associated with oil spills and oil leaks. Aspects of a spill can include the assessment, cleanup of a spill, and any consequences due to transfer of the spill into the ground.


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First steps upon discovering you have an oil spill or an oil leak at home

If you find an oil spill damage at your home or suspect an oil leak, we suggest acting quickly by:

1A. Contacting a specialist oil spill clean up contractors/ oil spill clean up company. A few of  the specialist oil spill cleanup contractors  in Ireland offer a free initial call out to assess the extent of your oil spill and its environmental damage & health concerns to you and your family. This is your best chance to get clear-cut definitive advice on your situation.

One of the oil spill companies I know of that provide this initial consultation are Nationwide Oil Leaks Ireland  – with offices all around Ireland from Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Kerry across to Waterford. Call – 1890-929-555 for assistance.

2B. Your home insurance company, the oil spill clean up contractors as we also advise contacting your home
insurance company. Your bricks and mortar / contents policy may likely cover the appointing of a specialist oil spill clean up contractor like Nationwide Oil Leaks Ireland or a similar expert environment cleanup company. Many many factors about the leak or oil spill must be assessed and quantified which will have repercussions on oil leak clean up costs and if your home insurance policy will cover your oil tank leak claim and your insurance company will accept liability for this disaster facing you.

Once you have made the above calls, follow these practical steps for the oil spill damage on your property:


Tips for dealing with oil spills at home……


Prepare yourself to contain the oil spill & making the area safe.

– Keep children and pets away from any leaks, spills or ground contaminated by oil (or pools of water with oil slicks etc.)

– Always wear gloves to avoid getting oil on your skin and wear clothing that may become useless from coming in contact with oil an oil based products.
– Wash your hands before you begin to undertake the temporary / remedial measures below. Wash your hands after your finished …. even if you’ve been wearing gloves.
– Don’t smoke when in proximity of the oil spill or oil leak – and it seems ridiculous to even have to mention this, but never under any circumstances attempt to burn off any oil residue, oil leak or oil spill.

Foolish people have thought this a good idea in the past and have suffered everything from fires getting out of control at their home, 3rd degree burns and serious injury & fines for incorrect disposal of environmental waste. TO REITERATE – DO NOT EVER ATTEMPT TO BURN OFF OIL THAT HAS SPILLED OR LEAKED ON YOUR PROPERTY.
– Don’t eat or drink when or after you are in contact with the oil.

Find the leak, close any valves & catch and collect oil that is spilling.

– Find the isolation valve at the base of the oil tank and switch off your oil supply at the tank.
– Now if possible try to find the oil leak and the source it is coming from.
– If you find the location of the leak(s) try to stop it at the source – use a container (preferably an oil container, old or otherwise – an oil drum or oil bottle would be ideal if available to you). Otherwise use a bucket to catch the leaking oil drip or flow.
(using oil containers if available simply will ensure no chance of risk that a container could be used to store food for animals or worse humans by mistake. Furthermore Oil containers or empty buckets are best choice due to the risk of accidental mixture of leftover materials or fluids in the collection containers that react to oil based products)

Preventing the oil spill and leak from further contamination and migration to water sources

– To prevent spilled oil from spreading and, in particular, To prevent spilled oil from spreading and getting into drains and waterways – you should contain the oil using absorbent materials such as sand, earth also other very absorbent materials include peat moss (dry peat) or cat litter. Commercial spill kits with absorbent products are also available but these may be difficult to obtain at short notice.

– To stem the flow from an ongoing leak at a Metal home heating oil tank try to use any form of sealant to temporarily slow the leak or block the problem.
– To stem the flow of an oil leak at a plastic home heating oil tank, rubbing soft soap from a bar of soap into the the tank split, or for both tank types – sealant such as all weather ‘Tech 7’ type sealant products covered over by heavy duty duct tape may slow the leak somewhat until help arrives.

– Make sure to safely store anything with oil spilled on it, oil soaked rags or anything surrounding the oil leak that has become contaminated. Store all these contaminated materials in containers (or double lined plastic bags) that won’t leak until correct and legal disposal can be arranged.

If oil has entered drainage, water sources or local waterways..

– Seek advice from your specialist oil cleanup contractor on whom to contact. The EPA, Irish Water and your local authorities (county council) MUST be contacted and informed if an oil spill has entered nearby ponds, rivers, groundwater, coastal waterways and lakes.
– If the possibility exists that your water supply or pipework may be contaminated, do not drink the water and immediately make contact on the water pollution hotline phone no’s listed:

Ensuring the heating oil tank is empty

– Work out how much oil has been lost to give your oil spill clean up contractors an estimate -1. check the heating oil tank level, 2. Approximate how much you use and finally, 3. When did you last have a delivery of oil? (and how much oil was delivered, full tank, half tank?)
– Remaining fuel in the tank has to be removed by a fuel supplier -don’t try to remove this remaining oil / kerosene yourself and don’t store oil in temporary containers or sheds. If needs be you should be able to come to an arrangement with the fuel supplier to assist you by either pumping to a neighbors tank or for a cost taking back ‘x’ no. of liters of oil to be factored into your next oil delivery to your newly installed oil tank in the coming days when remediation and cleanup works have been completed and all repairs have been carried out successfully.