Listing Data

Buried Treasure or Just an Old Oil Tank?

A good real estate agent knows all about the hassles of old buried oil tanks, and how to find one. It seems like a an easy, straightforward thing. But having the expertise of a real estate agent helps out in the end.

When I first saw my new house, I couldn’t ignore the charm, or the amazing potential of the little cottage. The house itself was what the neighbours called a “push down”, meaning that one good push would bring the whole thing crashing down. When I bought it, I was too interested in saving the place to investigate buried oil tanks. So for 2 years now, I have been re-roofing, re-wiring , re-plumbing, re-plastering…. the list never ends. And now I am about to re-landscape!

At the time of purchase, the house was using a small above ground oil tank, “newish”, and perfectly serving the needs of a small cottage. The tank itself was standing on a concrete pad inside a small shed. I thought “this must be the re-placement tank for a much older one which has been removed when the new baby was installed!” That’s the obvious answer right? Wrong!

Looking around the front garden I puzzled over this huge concrete “bunker” next to our garage. On closer investigation we found a pipe sticking out of it. So we dip it and lo and behold, the familiar smell of petroleum. The bunker seems far too large to have ever held an oil tank. At 18′ x 4′ x 6′, a tank contained in that thing would be far too large for a 1200sq ft cottage.

So I call our local oil tank removal guy Rick at Vic Tank Service to see if he has any info on it. Rick remembers installing the new tank and “de-commissioning” the old one. But de-comissioning doesn’t necessarily mean removing does it?

My suspicions are confirmed. It is done by emptying any left over oil and encasing the old tank in sand and concrete So I asked how big is this tank and he says to the best of his memory it was 1,000 gallons! That would explain the size of the bunker alright. Rick’s best guess is that the tank was installed when the war brought fears of oil shortages in the 1940’s. He also adds that it should be re-moved so that any redial oil doesn’t leak out through rust spots in the tank and contaminate my soil and my neighbour’s, a big environmental no no!

I ask Rick for a quote. It will be $2500 to break up and remove concrete, remove and properly dispose of the tank itself. Of course, there will be dump charges too. This just gets better!

Well, it must be done. If I ever sell the property, the new owner would not be able to get house insurance until the tank was dealt with properly. I don’t want to dump this problem on the next owner. We spend the weekend removing items we have been storing on the top and wait for the guys to come in and start work.

Monday morning I wake up early and make a cup of coffee that I enjoy while looking at the birds and the sea and the morning coming to life out my front window. A large dump truck and trailered bobcat pull up in front of my house. I wonder who is having landscaping done and have just decided I’m jealous of them, when there is a knock at the door! Turns out that truck and bobcat were here to remove my oil tank. And so our day began.

It turned out to be quite a treasure hunt. The bobcat guy, “Bones”, kept finding “buried treasures”. Amongst them old medicine bottles, pieces of machinery, a baby’s shoe, half a jar of mayo from decades ago, an enamel pitcher and the 1000 gallon oil tank of course. In the end we had an 18′ x 4′ x 6′ hole which the guys filled and levelled. Bones and his bobcat went out backwards smoothing the damaged path as they went. The guys loaded up their truck with concrete, took the cut up tank and left. They were tidy and efficient. The whole job took 5 hours in all, but it felt like more. The place where the bunker had been was now level and clean and ready for landscaping. One would never known that there had been a giant oil tank there only hours before. And now, when a garden is planted and time goes by the next owner will never know what “buried treasure” once lay below.

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