Thoughts on buying a house that had a leaking underground oil storage tank removed?

Asked by beaglesquared, Chicago, IL Tue Feb 12, 2013

We are under contract to purchase a home that had an underground heating oil tank removed over a year ago. The paperwork from the company that did the work shows that the tank was leaking, and they removed the tank, the contaminated soil, hauled it away and replaced with "clean" soil. At inspection we noticed a sump pit ( ?) in the crawlspace that had some stagnant water in it with what looked like an oily sheen to it. There was an oil odor as well. The odor was not prevalent in the rest of the house, just the immediate area of this "pit". Could this be some residual effect of the tank? Or work not completed properly? A couple of tank removal companies I spoke with said to "flush" out that water several times and it should be ok.

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Accurate Ins…, Other Pro, Chicago, IL
Thu Feb 14, 2013
A couple issues here ...
A sump pit picks up ground water from the perimeter piping. Depending on age and installation that ground pipe can be either under the basement floor or around the outside of the house. Since the oil tank is known to have been leaking into the ground, chances are some of the oil went into the ground pipe for the sump pit. Therefore you've got some residue in the pit.
- Maybe the previous company didn't clean the contamination fully or didn't clean the pit at all
- Maybe the previous company did a generally good job and this is just residual leaching into the system
Is the house going to burn down, be an EPA site or kill you? Probably not. Is there enough remaining oil in the ground to be a big issue? That depends on who you listen too. For some any amount of oil is a big deal. For others a small residual amount can be reasonably dealt with.
You could flush the pit a number of times and be done with it. That would probably work if it really is only a small residual amount. Granted flushing the system like that would likely be considered 'contamination' by some.
My recommendation is that you pay either the company that was there previously or another clean up company to come out, do a realistic assessment and make your decision from there.
Yes, having some old oil in the house isn't a good thing. However, I'd have to disagree that its a reason to run.
3 votes
Markus, thank you so much you seem to have the most reasonable answer, and others in the field have said the same about the "pit", too. We are working on getting the seller to have the original company come back to deal with/ assess.
Flag Thu Feb 14, 2013
Marina James,…, Agent, Chicago, IL
Tue Feb 12, 2013
If this is a regular sale and you are still in the attorney/inspection review period, you can try requesting through your attorney that the seller complete the remediation process. Or you can get some clean-up quotes from certified tank removal contractors and request credit from the seller.

I would also try to make sure the water table/well is not affected.

Also, before you move forward with this deal, think resale. Will this issue affect you as a seller if you decide to sell the house 3-5 years down the road?

You might want to consider other homes.
2 votes
Erik Sachs, Agent, Chicago, IL
Wed Feb 13, 2013
The smell could be caused from leakage from the tank onto the concrete in the basement during the removal process. I have had to remove and re-pour concrete slabs in basements to get rid of this smell in the past when similar work was done.

Contact the company that did the LUST removal and get their opinion. Many houses have these old tanks and it sounds like a legit company removed it. I would get more information before you kill the deal.

Erik Sachs
RpV Realty and Development
Cell 773/368-5515
1 vote
Thank you- while our attorneys get more details about the soil samples, I have done my own sleuthing and many pros have said similar things. The source was removed but maybe a bit of oil left in a pipe that was not removed, or residual left in sump pit. The crawl space can be "encapsulated" with vapor barrier and concreted over. ( it's just dirt currently) Our inspectors ( we had 2 look into it) said the same. I appreciate the input.
Flag Wed Feb 13, 2013
Michele Wils…, Agent, Lake Forest, IL
Thu Apr 24, 2014
A soil test is not that expensive. Have one done before you spend money to buy the property.
0 votes
Mark Malave, Agent, Chicago, IL
Wed Apr 16, 2014
You may want to get the soil tested and do a complete environmental test before moving forward.
0 votes
Santiago Ken…, Agent, Chicago, IL
Wed Apr 16, 2014
You should talk with a home inspector
0 votes
Riccardo War…, Agent, Bolingbrook, IL
Thu Feb 14, 2013
I would take the advice of Markus the home inspector. Sounds like he knows what he is talking about.
0 votes
Mark Malave, Agent, Chicago, IL
Wed Feb 13, 2013
Umm...go get an independent inspection. Someone who is certified to conduct this inspection is required. A regular home inspector can't answer this question for you.

Good luck
0 votes
Philip Sencer, Agent, Chicago, IL
Wed Feb 13, 2013
What did the inspector conclude? Perhaps you need a specialized inspection regarding that issue.
0 votes
Bill J Delig…, Agent, Naperville, IL
Tue Feb 12, 2013
Inspect, Inspect, Inspect!!!
0 votes
Jose Hernand…, Agent, Chicago, IL
Tue Feb 12, 2013
Run! Why would you want a problem with no end in sight.
0 votes
Ivan Sagel, Agent, Chicago, IL
Tue Feb 12, 2013
Home Buyer,

Maybe your beagles can sniff out the problem? But seriously, I would keep looking. Unless this property is sold at a large discount, I would look at other homes. You don't want an oily stench seeping into your home.

Best regards,

Ivan Sagel
0 votes
Matt Laricy, Agent, Chicago, IL
Tue Feb 12, 2013
Eh sounds like a handful! I would get as many opinions from as many qualified companies that I could before I moved forward with the deal.
0 votes
Sam Stewart, Agent, Chicago, IL
Tue Feb 12, 2013
I would say that you should have an inspector that is experienced in underground storage tank removal and remediation take a look at the property. If they have any concerns, don't hesitate to walk away from the deal. Environmental clean-ups can be VERY costly.
0 votes
Manuel Brown, Agent, Chicago, IL
Tue Feb 12, 2013
Dear home buyer,

I completely understand your concern! Get a really excellent home inspector and provide him or her with all the reports provided by the home seller. The home inspector during inspection should give you his or her opinion if you should have a full environmental study.

Best of Luck
0 votes
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