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Oil tank leaks


The Environmental Protection Team regularly receive notifications of oil tank leaks or investigate complaints that oil has leaked onto land or got into watercourses.

Incidents of oil pollution can be very serious because they can cause environmental damage through the pollution of rivers and groundwaters, threatening fish and other aquatic life. They can cause harm to human health by the release of vapours and can pollute drinking water supplies and cause structural damage.

What should you be doing?

It's your responsibility to keep your domestic oil storage tank safe. Oil leaks can cause damage to property and the environment. Prolonged exposure to vapours could cause harm to health. It could cost you thousands of pounds and take months or years to clean up an oil spillage and there is a risk of prosecutions and fines. 

1.   Maintenance checks

To prevent problems from occurring make sure your whole system is regularly checked and serviced by professionally qualified, competent engineers.

Don't put it off - check your oil heater today.

2.   Check your oil tank yourself

Are there any visible leaks or stains?  Are there any cracks or damage to the tank, pipes, sight gauges or the support system?  Is your tank old or in poor condition?  If any of these apply, get advice from a qualified and experienced engineer as soon as possible.  If repair or replacement is required, do not attempt to do this yourself.

3.   Make sure your tank has enough space

Cut back any plants which are growing near or over the tank, as they could damage it.

4.   Ensure deliveries take place safely

Make sure that any deliveries of oil can be made safely and supervise them whenever possible.

5.   Prevent vandalism

Do what you can to prevent vandalism or theft, but do not make any changes that would affect how your system works.

6.   Check your insurance cover

Some policies will only cover you for the cost of replacing lost oil, not for any clean up.  Most companies will not cover you at all if a leak is caused by lack of maintenance.

Identifying a 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, follow these steps:

  • If you do have an oil leak or spill at home, try to stop it at the source and use absorbing material such as sand to contain the oil and prevent it from entering drains and waterways
  • 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 immediately
  • 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 Protection team
  • Do not put off taking action or assume the problem will go away

Preparing for emergencies

Have a basic spill kit ready (see the guide for details), but don't put yourself in any danger trying to stop or clean up a spill. Keep a copy of emergency telephone numbers handy - or obtain a sticker for your tank from the Environment Agency by telephoning their National Customer Contact Centre on 03708 506 506

What can we do to help?

We cannot clean up any oil that is spilt, or undertake any repairs for you but we may be able to help you find someone to clean up the oil, and to ensure that this is done to the correct standards.

Failure to properly address a significant oil spill could lead to one or more of the following:

  • Major liabilities to compensate other adjacent landowners
  • Significant loss of value of your property
  • Determination of the land as "contaminated land" under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

Advice about any oil spills affecting the Port of Bridgwater can be found at Port Management Plans and Risk Assessments .

How to report a problem

If you are concerned that oil has leaked on to land, you can contact us on the number below or online here:  Report an oil spill

Please note oil pollution of a ditch, rhyne or watercourse should be reported to the Environment Agency incident line on 0800 80 70 60.

Environment Agency