Most home heating oil tanks that are properly maintained will never experience a leak or spill, according to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). However, in the event you do experience a spill or another type of oil release, would you know what to do next?
Prompt cleanup after a spill or release can reduce the exposure and impact on your family, neighbors, and the environment. The average cost to cleanup a residential oil spill ranges from $20,000 to $50,000, and can cost significantly more if the groundwater becomes contaminated. The DEP advises homeowners take the following steps immediately after an oil release:
1. Notify your local fire department and the DEP.
As soon as you discover the leak, call your local fire department as heating oil is combustible and dangerous. Report the incident to the DEP by calling their 24-hour line at 1-888-304-1133. By law, the DEP must be notified within two hours of the discovery of a sudden release of 10 or more gallons of oil. Also, be sure to contact your oil company for help shutting off valves in order to stop the oil release.
2. Limit your family’s exposure.
There are a number of health risks resulting from exposure to high concentrations of oil vapors. Common short-term symptoms are: eye irritation, headaches, nausea, dizziness, drowsiness, euphoria, loss of coordination and disorientation. Long-term exposure can have some serious health impacts and may require medical attention. Avoid touching the oil with exposed skin or breathing in fumes. Be sure to ventilate any area where you can smell oil odors by opening windows and setting up fans.
3. Notify your independent agent or insurance company.
Typically, a standard homeowner’s policy excludes coverage for fuel contamination to personal property, groundwater, or a neighbor’s property. Prior to a claim, oil remediation coverage can be added as an endorsement onto your policy for a minimum of $50,000 for first-party coverage (personal property) and $200,000 for third-party liability (clean-up efforts). To secure this additional coverage, your oil tank must first be in compliance with regulation. The law requires the installation of an oil safety valve or to enclose the oil supply line with a protective sleeve.
4. Hire a licensed site professional.
The Massachusetts Contingency Plan may require you hire a licensed site professional (LSP) to oversee and supervise any cleanup actions to ensure their compliance. An LSP is an independent contractor who is licensed by the state Board of Registration of Hazardous Waste Cleanup Professionals.
For questions or to request more information on oil remediation coverage, contact McGrath Insurance Group at 508-347-6850 or visit www.mcgrathinsurance.com.
*This article is written for informational purposes only and should not be construed as providing legal advice.