Costly Cleanup: Buried oil tanks can break home sale deals
By KATHLEEN LYNN of The Record
When Marianne and Matthew Schottenfeld began thinking of selling their Waldwick home in early 2009, a real estate agent advised them to remove the underground heating-oil tank.
…The Schottenfelds’ property is completely clean now, but it took more than $60,000 and 2 1/2 years. Although their case is extreme, it illustrates the trouble these hidden tanks can create for homeowners, buyers and sellers….
…Sellers don’t always know whether there’s an oil tank on the property because a previous owner may have abandoned the tank and switched to gas heat years earlier. If there’s a question, home inspectors often look for signs indicating there’s an abandoned tank on the property, like old pipes or oil feed lines in the house. Inspectors specializing in oil tanks are sometimes called in to sweep the property with a metal detector to search out an old tank and do test borings of the soil nearby to see if there are any leaks. If a tank is found, removing it typically costs around $1,500 to $2,000 – if it’s not leaking. But if it has leaked oil, cleanup costs can run into the tens of thousands. That’s what happened to the Schottenfelds, whose tank leaked oil into their neighbor’s property as well as their own. Tests found that the leaks probably started 25 to 30 years ago….