An Information Booklet for Real Estate Agents/Brokers
Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
Dirk Kempthorne, Governor C. Stephen Allred, Administrator
1410 North Hilton
Boise, ID 83706
Visit us at our Internet site—http://www.deq.state.id.us
There’s an Underground Storage Tank on the Property
What Do I Do?
Real estate agents/brokers may feel uneasy
So... What Do I Need to
when they realize that a property they are
showing or listing has or had underground
This section provides a framework for under-
storage tanks (USTs) on the premises. Part of
standing how and why USTs are regulated in
this unease may stem from not knowing what
Idaho. The following pages contain common
needs to be done or who to turn to for assis-
questions and answers about properties with
tance in dealing with USTs. If you are a real
USTs in the state. (Please note, however, that
estate agent/broker who deals with USTs on
this booklet is only a “layman’s” introduction.
properties in Idaho and would like to better
Page 11 lists sources of more complete infor-
understand how to handle them, this booklet
is for you.
What Is a Federally Regulated UST?
A federally regulated underground storage
This Information Can Help tank (UST) is a tank and any underground
You and Your Clients piping connected to the tank that is buried at
This information may help your clients and least 10 percent underground. The federal
customers by: regulations apply only to USTs storing either
s Answering questions about USTs. petroleum or certain hazardous substances.
s Helping you understand the various We are only addressing USTs that store
options a seller or buyer has when an petroleum within this booklet. If you have
UST is on a property. questions related to the storage of other
s Helping you direct a client who may substances, contact either the EPA or the
need to contact the UST regulatory Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (our
authority. regional offices are listed on the back of this
s Helping you direct a client who may booklet).
need to find an UST technician or Some kinds of USTs are not covered by
contractor. these regulations:
s Telling you where to obtain more infor- s Farm and residential tanks of 1,100
mation on USTs. gallons or less capacity holding motor
fuel used for noncommercial purposes.
s USTs with a storage capacity of 110 Is There One UST or More on the
gallons or less. Property?
s Tanks storing heating oil used on the Keep in mind that any property may contain
premises where it is stored. USTs. They have been found in many unusual
s Tanks on or above the floor of under- places, and some USTs do not give any visible
ground areas, such as basements. indication of their presence below ground.
s Septic tanks and systems for collecting Many converted properties, such as fast food
storm water and wastewater. restaurants, were previously gasoline service
s Emergency spill and overfill tanks. stations.
Remember, even though a tank may not be Examples of where USTs are commonly
regulated, if a release occurs then it can found are: gasoline stations, convenience
become regulated under state cleanup stores, residences, trucking and busing termi-
requirements. nals, railroad yards, airfields, and auto
USTs containing petroleum and certain dealerships. Some places where USTs might
hazardous chemicals are subject to federal, not be suspected but where they have been
state, and—sometimes—local regulations. found include: marinas, government facilities,
USTs are regulated because petroleum or schools, auto repair shops, race tracks, farms
other hazardous substances may leak from and ranches, factories, and retail facilities.
them into the soil and contaminate ground A walk-through of a property may uncover
water or surface waters. indications of abandoned USTs; items to look
Who Is the UST Regulatory Authority?
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) has promulgated federal UST regula-
tions. The information in this booklet is based The text of this booklet was produced by
on EPA UST regulations; these are the ones the Idaho Department of Environmental
that Idaho UST owners and operators and Quality and the Idaho Association of
property owners are legally held accountable Realtors. The booklet contains informa-
for. The State of Idaho has the authority to tion of value to real estate professionals
require investigations and cleanups of releases who must work with properties in Idaho
from USTs. There may be other health and that either have or may have had one or
safety regulations at the local level which may more underground storage tanks that
apply to an UST and are not included here; store petroleum. The booklet was
contact your county permits division and the produced with the assistance of the EPA’s
local fire department for further information. Office of Underground Storage Tanks.
Here are some of the things a real estate Please note that this booklet is intended
professional should consider when listing a only as a brief introductory guide for real
property in Idaho that may now contain or in estate professionals and their clients on
the past may have contained an UST. UST management in Idaho.
s Old vent piping. Vent piping is usually If DEQ Has No Record of an UST on
found outside of structures, and it the Property, How Can a Property Be
normally is 2 to 12 feet tall. Vents are Investigated for USTs?
normally made of 1½ to 2-inch galva- A way to investigate a property for USTs is to
nized piping and in many cases have a have the property owner hire a contractor to
cap which looks like a mushroom on the conduct a home survey or an environmental
top of the piping. site assessment of the entire property at the
s Fill pipes. Fill piping is normally directly time of listing. Lenders often require a site
over the top of an UST. A fill pipe can assessment before they make a loan on certain
be 2 to 4 inches in diameter. In most types of commercial properties. Also, if you or
cases, the fill pipe will have a special cap the owner suspect that the property has or
that requires a tool for its removal or a ever had USTs, and you list the property
cap with ears which locks it in place. without confirming this, you run the risk of
s Dispensers. Especially on former farm spending dollars to advertise a property, lining
and gas station sites, the dispenser may up a buyer, and then having the deal fall
still be standing. These units can be through if the potential buyer requests a site
large like the one you use to fill your car assessment and discovers an UST(s) and
with, or they can be a small pipe with an possible contamination.
electric motor and hose attached. The site assessment should be conducted
s Abandoned piping. In many buildings by knowledgeable and experienced personnel.
that have changed their source of heat, Your client may contact a DEQ regional office
you may find abandoned piping. This listed on the back of this booklet for answers
piping may be copper lines or galvanized to specific questions concerning site assess-
pipe. There are normally two lines ments in Idaho.
associated with an oil heat system. If
abandoned lines run out through a wall, What About Possible Contamination from
there is a good possibility that there is an a Leaking UST?
UST on the other side. See more infor- The question of possible contamination from
mation on heating oil USTs beginning a leaking tank (past or present) will almost
on page 6. certainly come up in any transaction involv-
DEQ is the place to begin to investigate a ing property which has or had an UST. If DEQ
property for USTs. DEQ maintains informa- has information on a property, these records
tion on a large number of active and closed may shed light on this question. A thorough
UST sites across the state. DEQ may already site assessment of the property should provide
have information on a particular property. the UST owner with details on any contami-
Have your client contact DEQ with the nation found. Any past or newly discovered
address or location of the property in ques- contamination must be disclosed to any
tion. potential buyer and be reported to DEQ to
determine if remedial action is warranted.
What If It Is Decided to Close an UST? What If an UST Will Remain in
Often either a potential buyer or the lending Operation?
institution will want an UST to be properly Any contamination from past or present
closed before a property sale occurs. There are leaking USTs on the property must be ad-
specific requirements the property owner must dressed by the property owner in cooperation
follow for proper closure of an UST. EPA with DEQ. If an UST will be kept in opera-
requires the following basic actions when tion after the sale, potential buyers may want
closing an UST. to know if it is in compliance with EPA UST
1. The regional DEQ office servicing the regulations.
area must be notified at least 30 days For USTs storing motor fuel, used oil, or
before the UST is scheduled for closure. bulk heating oil not consumed on site:
(Call the DEQ regional office again 48 s The UST must be registered. EPA
hours prior to the scheduled closure date regulations require that a regulated UST
as well.) DEQ must monitor the actions be registered with DEQ.
taken at the site. s The UST must have spill protection.
2. Determine if spills or leaks from the UST The UST must have a catchment basin
have contaminated the surrounding to contain spills which may occur when
environment. The results of monthly the delivery hose is disconnected.
leak detection methods which include s The UST must have overfill protection.
vapor or groundwater monitoring can be Overfills usually release much larger
used to show that the site is not contami- volumes of fluid than spills. The use of
nated. Otherwise, a site assessment needs overfill protection devices (such as
to be completed (if it hasn’t already been automatic shutoff devices, overfill
done). alarms, and ball float valves) can help
3. The UST must be emptied of liquids, prevent overfills that can occur during
dangerous vapor levels, and accumulated delivery.
sludge and then be removed. These s The UST must have a leak detection
potentially hazardous actions need to be system and be checked regularly for
carried out by trained and experienced leaks. Every UST must have a properly
personnel who carefully follow standard maintained leak detection system. USTs
safety practices. After the tank has been must be checked for leaks on a regular
properly emptied, it must be either basis.
removed or closed in place.
s An UST with corrosion protection must Underground Heating Oil
be tested and inspected regularly. An Tanks
UST made of noncorrodible material There are thousands of unused underground
such as fiberglass does not need corro- residential heating oil tanks in existence and
sion protection. An UST (and any many still contain heating oil. These tanks are
piping) made of a corrodible material typically 300 to 500 gallons in size and made
like steel must have a way of preventing of 12 gauge steel (about 1/8 inch thick). They
the corrosion, which can cause leaks. average about 30 years before corrosion
The tank and its corrosion protection makes them prone to leaking, but the life of
system must be tested and/or inspected individual tanks varies widely depending on
at least once every 3 years. the properties of the surrounding soil.
s The tank owner/operator must demon- A leaking underground residential heating
strate pollution liability coverage. oil tank—or even an empty one—can cause
Financial responsibility regulations problems. For instance:
require that an owner or operator have s The property owner can be held liable
the resources to pay for costs associated for damage caused by contamination
with cleaning up releases and compen- from a heating oil UST.
sating third parties in the event of a leak s Leaks can contaminate soil on the site
or spill. and neighboring property.
s The tank owner/operator must keep s Leaks can contaminate ground water and
records of tank operation. An UST possibly the residents’ well water.
owner/operator must keep records of: s Cave-ins can happen when tanks dete-
tank installation and upgrades, mainte- riorate from corrosion and the tank walls
nance, and repairs; maintenance of the collapse.
leak detection system and leak detection s More and more lending institutions and
monitoring; documentation of corrosion buyers require closure of unused heating
protection and testing; and any releases oil tanks before they will finalize a
and corrective actions taken. Also, residential sale.
accurate inventory records must be kept.
s The tank owner/operator must report Closing a Home Heating Oil UST
releases and take corrective action to This is only a general guidance document and
clean up contamination. Any suspected does not cover everything required to prop-
releases must be reported to DEQ. If a erly close a heating oil UST. The action of
release is confirmed, the owner must also immediate concern is to find out what is in
report follow-up actions planned to the tank.
correct the damage caused by the Most underground residential tanks are
release. easy to find. Try following the fuel lines from
Property owners should contact DEQ or EPA the house, or use a hand probe or metal
if they have questions on compliance issues.
detector if the location of the UST is the soil under the tank tested for contamina-
unknown. tion, but this is difficult when the tank is left
To find out if there is still oil in the tank, in place and may cost more than removing
remove the fill pipe cap and “stick” the tank the tank. Even if you sell the property, you
(this means inserting a long stick to the could be held liable at some later date. See
bottom of the tank to see if it comes out with the section entitled “Contamination”
oil on it). Sometimes a tank will contain oil (page 9).
and water, or primarily water (the water will The tank should be pumped out and the
settle to the bottom, the oil will float on top). inside cleaned before it is filled. There may be
Buy an inexpensive paste from a heating oil sludge left in the bottom of the tank after
company that will react with water by turning pumping which also needs to be removed.
color. Put some on the stick when checking The sludge will vary in amounts from a trace
for the contents of the tank. If oil is in the to many gallons.
tank, an odor from the fill pipe or stick Tanks then are filled in place with an inert,
should be noticeable. solid material to prevent the tank from:
Talk to your local fire department and s Shifting or floating up in high ground
building department before undertaking the water.
following actions. Ask about permits, inspec- s Caving in as it deteriorates.
tions, or other requirements that may apply. s Filling with vapors.
Regulations and policies vary from place to s Being used in the future.
place, and may change in the future. DEQ Inert materials such as sand, gravel, foam,
recommends that an experienced professional or a weak cement slurry are used to fill tanks.
UST technician be used when conducting the Each type of fill has advantages and disadvan-
following work. tages. Check them out before deciding which
The following are two options for closing is right for your situation.
underground residential heating oil tanks. Semifluid materials, like foam or cement
1. Fill the tank in place, after removing the slurry, that are injected into the tank do a
fuel and cleaning it. better job of filling than sand or gravel. DEQ
This is a popular remedy for residential tanks, generally discourages the use of gravel as fill
particularly if removal is not possible. But because it does not prevent future use of the
before choosing this alternative, consider the tank for disposal of hazardous liquids. Foam
future of your property. Potential buyers or should not be used where there is high ground
lenders may require you to remove the tank. water, because it will not anchor the tank.
Also, if you fill a tank in place you may not 2. Dig the tank up and remove it.
know if it leaked. It may have caused soil DEQ recommends this as the best way to
contamination, which may be contributing to close a heating oil UST because:
ground water contamination. You can have s You can find and clean up contamina-
tion from past leaking and spilling.
s Your location can be documented as Cleaning, Filling, and Removal
“clean” (see the section entitled “Con- Look in the yellow pages under “Tanks” or
tamination” on page 9). “Tanks—Removal,” or contact the DEQ
s Many buyers and lending institutions regional office that serves the area where the
require the removal of unused tanks as UST is located (the regional offices are listed
a condition to a property transaction. on the back of this booklet).
s Some fire departments require unused
tanks be removed where possible. Costs
The tank should be pumped out and the The cost of these services will vary depending
inside cleaned before it is removed. There on the size, location, accessibility, and other
may be sludge left in the bottom of the tank special problems of the job. Costs vary among
after pumping, and this also needs to be companies performing the same services, too.
removed. The sludge will vary in amounts The following are approximate cost guidelines:
from a trace to many gallons. s Pumping (oil only): $0–$l00. If the tank
When removed, the unearthed UST must contains a lot of oil (200+ gallons), some
be disposed of properly. It cannot be illegally companies will not charge for pumping.
dumped, should not be stored at a residence, s Cleaning: $200–$500
and must be cleaned before being recycled as s Filling: $300–$1,000 (type of fill
scrap metal. If it is intended to dispose of the material may affect cost)
cleaned tank intact, make sure there is a s Removal/Disposal: $400–$2,000
recycler or a landfill in the area that will Money can be saved by having one company
accept it. perform several services at one time. Or one
may be able to negotiate a price break if
Procuring Services several residences in the same neighborhood
Many companies provide services for resi- have services performed at the same time.
dential tanks, including pumping, cleaning, Companies that clean tanks and/or recycle
filling, removal, and disposal. Some provide waste oil always have to consider the possibility
all these services, some specialize in one or that there may be hazardous substances in the
another. waste oil or sludge. They must include testing
and handling costs when filling or removing a
Pumping tank, and that affects the cost.
The heating oil left in unused tanks is consid- Warning: Working on an underground storage
ered waste oil, and the companies that sell tank can be dangerous. Under certain condi-
and distribute heating oil usually will not tions these tanks may explode. The excavation
pump it out or take it back. To find compa- pit, handling of the heavy tank, and use of
nies that will pump out the tank, look in the power equipment may also pose risks. Never
telephone directory yellow pages under enter an underground storage tank, even if it
“Recycling.” Pumping is not the same as has been cut open. Care should be used to
cleaning, and both may need to be done. reduce risks to life and the environment.
People working on the UST should have the If the Heating Oil Tank Is Still in Use
appropriate knowledge, experience, and Many home heating oil tanks are 30 to 50
training to perform this work. years old, and nearing (or past) the time
when they will begin leaking. A small
Contamination pinhole leak undetected over a long period
Contamination from residential heating oil of time may cause major contamination and
tanks is of concern to owners, buyers, and liability problems. Here are some tips for
lenders because of potential liability. determining if the tank leaks:
Under the Idaho Water Quality Standards s If the furnace seems to be using more
and Wastewater Treatment Requirements, fuel than usual, the heating oil tank
UST owners must report to DEQ all releases may have developed a leak. (Consider
of petroleum products which may pose a other possible factors for variable fuel
threat to human health and the environment. usage, such as unusual weather or
If the soil around the site of the removed tank furnace malfunction.)
is stained and smells strongly of oil, contact s Is there water in the tank? Stick the
the nearest DEQ regional office (the regional tank, using water reactive paste on the
offices are listed on the back of this booklet). stick, to find out. A small amount of
If professional documentation is needed for water is normal, but several inches may
the removed or filled-in-place tank site to mean water is getting in through a hole
demonstrate that it is not contaminated, an in the tank, which means oil could be
environmental consultant may be hired to getting out.
take soil samples for analysis. DEQ cannot During the summer, when the furnace is
perform this service. Consultants usually take not used, carefully measure and record the
at least two samples, one from beneath each level of the fuel in the tank. Make sure the
end of the tank. The costs for professional furnace (or any other appliance, such as a
documentation and analysis vary widely. Look water heater) is completely off. Wait as long
in the yellow pages under “Environmental as possible, keeping the furnace off (prefer-
Services,” or call the DEQ regional office that ably at least 2 weeks, but the longer one
serves the area where the UST is located (see waits, the smaller the leak one will be able to
the back of this booklet). They may be able detect), then measure the fuel again. If the
to help find contractors that do this type of level is down, the tank is probably leaking. If
work. Some companies that provide other the level is up, check to see if water is
tank services also provide this service. entering the tank, as described earlier.
Some companies will perform sophisti- or property damage arising out of such a spill or
cated leak detection tests at a cost of $300– leak.
$500. Look in the yellow pages under “Tank Tank owners should also be aware that most
Testing and Inspections.” DEQ strongly commercial and homeowner’s insurance poli-
recommends that you use an experienced cies contain what is commonly referred to as an
professional UST technician if you are “absolute pollution exclusion” which specifi-
having your heating oil tank tested. cally excludes pollution-related claims.
For the annual total cost of $5 per heating
Pollution Liability Insurance Required? oil tank and $25 for all other eligible regulated
Idaho’s Petroleum Storage Tank Fund and/or unregulated petroleum tanks, the PSTF
(PSTF) operates as a nonprofit insurance can provide owners coverage for the following:
company and is responsible for administering s Accidental releases which commence
the Idaho Petroleum Clean Water Trust during the policy period.
Fund. The petroleum liability insurance s Approved petroleum cleanup costs.
policies issued to owners and operators of s Third-party bodily injury and property
regulated USTs through the PSTF fully damage arising from an accidental
satisfies the federal financial responsibility release.
requirements. The PSTF also provides PSTF’s policy does not provide coverage for
insurance coverage to owners of all eligible preexisting contamination or tank installation,
unregulated above ground and underground removal, repair, or replacement.
petroleum storage tanks, including farm,
ranch, home, and commercial heating oil
tanks. For more information, please contact:
Petroleum spills and leaks account for a
Petroleum Storage Tank Fund
significant number of costly environmental
1215 West State Street
problems. Tank owners should be aware that
Boise, ID 83720
they can be held financially responsible for
Phone: (208) 332-8100
cleaning up the contaminated area and
or (877) 997-7664
satisfying compensatory damage claims to
third parties who have suffered bodily injury
Further Information on USTs
Where to Find the Legal Statutes and Regulations
and Other Publications and Information
on Underground Storage Tanks
❏ Call NCEPI toll-free at 1-800-490-9198 for a free copy of these EPA publications on USTs. These
publications can also be accessed on the EPA Office of Underground Storage Tanks Home Page at
❏ Don’t Wait Until 1998 (EPA 510-B-94-002). Information to help owners and operators of USTs meet
the 1998 deadline for compliance with requirements to upgrade, replace, or close USTs installed
before December 1988. [16 pages]
❏ Musts For USTs (EPA 510-K-95-002). Clearly summarizes federal UST requirements for installation;
release detection; spill, overfill, and corrosion protection; corrective action; closure; reporting; and
recordkeeping. [40 pages]
❏ Dollars and Sense (EPA 510-K-95-004). Clearly summarizes the financial responsibility required of
UST owners and operators by federal UST regulations. [16 pages]
❏ Straight Talk on Tanks (EPA 510-B-97-007). Explains federal regulatory requirements for leak detec-
tion and briefly describes allowable leak detection methods. [16 pages]
❏ Idaho UST/LUST Information Series and Interactive Web Site. See www2.id.us/deq/. Look for UST/
LUST information under the Waste Management & Remediation page. Find guidance on UST
closure/tank removal, site assessments, registration and closure forms, Risk-Based Corrective Action
(RBCA), and petroleum release reporting. Get UST/LUST facility information through the Interac-
tive Mapping of UST/LUSTs site. If you have questions contact DEQ at (208) 373-0502.
DEQ Regional Offices
Lewiston Coeur d'Alene
118 F Street 2110 Ironwood Parkway
Lewiston, ID 83501 Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814
(208) 799-4370 (208) 769-1422
Boise Idaho Falls
1445 North Orchard 900 North Skyline
Boise, ID 83706 Idaho Falls, ID 83402
(208) 373-0550 (208) 528-2650
601 Pole Line Road Pocatello
Suite 2 224 South Arthur
Twin Falls, ID 83301 Pocatello, ID 83204
(208) 736-2190 (208) 236-6160
DEQ and EPA can provide technical information and furnish other assistance
such as tank histories. They can also help direct you on how to find compa-
nies that do tank work for your clients and customers. Contact:
s Idaho Department of Environmental Quality
Underground Storage Tank Program
1410 North Hilton, Boise, ID 83706
Phone: (208) 373-0502
s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of Underground Storage Tanks
401 M Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20460
Phone: (703) 603-9900