Heating Oil Leaks

Oil is one of the most common causes of contamination. It can affect human health and property. It can also pollute water courses, damage plants and wildlife, make soil infertile and ruin habitats.

Heating Oil Tank

Over the last few years there has been an increasing number of pollution incidents caused by faulty or badly maintained domestic central heating oil tanks. Leaked oil can be very difficult and expensive to clean up. In some circumstances houses have been evacuated because of oil soaked into the ground nearby producing fumes and odours, making it impossible to live in the properties. A little time and money spent on maintenance now may avoid clean-up costs of thousands of pounds in the future.

Preventing an oil leak

There are several things you can do to prevent an oil leak in your home, such as: 

• checking the condition of your tank and boiler regularly
• watching out for black stains
• keeping a check on how much oil you use
• getting your heating system serviced regularly
• do not overfill your oil tank
• keeping the fill points on your tank clear
You should also review your home insurance policy to make sure you are covered for oil leaks or spills

Identifying an oil leak 

There are several warning signs that you may have an oil leak

These include: 

• a strong smell of solvent, petrol or oil inside or outside your home or in your cupboards
• black stains and dead plants or grass around your tank
• a sudden increase in the amount of fuel you use 

If you suspect an oil leak, you should follow these steps: 

• try to find out where the leak is coming from
• switch off your oil supply at the tank and arrange to have it emptied (if needed)
• arrange for an engineer to repair or replace your tank or pipework
• if the leak could affect a stream, pond or other water supply, call the Environment Agency on 08708 506506
• never use detergents or a hose to wash the spill away
• prevent the spill from entering drains by blocking its flow using earth, sand or commercial products that absorb oil
• keep your home well-ventilated by opening windows and doors
• call your household insurance company or landlord and make them aware of the leak
• if there is a strong smell of oil in your home, call our environmental health team on 01296 585605 

Do not put off taking action or assume the problem will go away.
If you see oil pollution call the Environment Agency straightaway on their free 24 hr Incident Hotline 0800 80 70 60. The sooner they know about an incident, the better the chance of minimising the impact on water supplies and the environment.