Know the Signs, Risks, and Solutions in Handling Underground Oil Tanks

It’s not even used anymore. It’s hulking in your building’s basement, or you know it’s buried outside in the back lot. A look at when and why it’s time to have a professional excavate and remove your heating oil tank.

The only time you never want to strike oil on your property is when it comes from an underground tank. These old and often-neglected containers are dotted throughout New Jersey, ready to cause environmental and financial headaches for businesses.

A new oil tank is a sturdy thing, but the older they get, the more they rust, degrade, and spring leaks. These are obvious red flags to proceed with repair or removal. As time goes on a business may upgrade its heating system and simply have no further use for the tank.

These are the signs it’s time to part with yours and what you can expect when removal begins. When the damage has gone too far, or progress has rendered it obsolete, the tank must be removed by experienced professionals who respect the process.

Oil tank removal step by step


  • Technical appraisal and cost estimate – Oil tank contents are flammable and pose a toxic or even explosive hazard if handled irresponsibly. A technician will inspect the tank to see how much, if anything, it still contains and draw a cost estimate from there.
  • Paperwork and permitsThere’s more to removal than just digging it up. Permits must be issued from local and state authorities who must be informed that the process is going ahead. The contractors themselves must also be fully licensed and covered to carry out the work. The best contractors will handle all that paperwork for their clients.
  • Utility inspection and inertingYour contractor will work in tandem with local utility companies to make sure electricity and other power lines are clearly delineated and won’t be damaged during the dig. The tank then needs to be rendered inert; a process which involves replacing the combustible oxygen in the tank with a non-explosive gas.
  • Tank removalDigging then begins to carefully remove the oil tank and transport it for safe disposal before the site is inspected again by an environmental official.
  • Environmental appraisal (green light or clean up) – The ideal scenario is one where the tank isn’t leaking. If it has, it could be causing serious environmental damage including contaminating the groundwater – the source of drinking water for almost half of Americans. This is where the cost can rise from between $10,000 to over $130,000 dependent on the environmental impact. You can discover more on the other oil tank dangers in our previous blog. If no cleanup is required, the property can be filled in and organically covered.

There are instances when a tank may be safely abandoned, rather than removed. It may be more structurally sound to leave it where it is. The rest of the process leading up to that final decision is the same.

There is some help with removal costs

On August 30, 1997, Governor Whitman signed the law establishing the Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Remediation, Upgrade and Closure Fund (UST Fund) within the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) and administered jointly with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP).

The UST Fund was created to provide financial assistance to eligible owners and operators of leaking petroleum underground storage tanks. The UST Fund statute was amended in 2003, 2006, 2007, and 2009. You can find out more about the fund on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website.

Financial aid is good news, and here’s more – amendments to New Jersey’s oil tank legislation made non-leaking tanks eligible for the UST Fund. This provides grants for commercial property owners who want to be proactive in removing their oil tank before problems start. It’s a great incentive and certainly cheaper to act early than pay high prices for a leak.

Mikula is experienced with this classic problem

Funding or no funding, you’ve got an ally in oil tank removal. Mikula has over 70 years of experience in handling excavation throughout New Jersey. We perform oil tank removal from commercial properties in Essex, Hudson, Bergen, Passaic, Morris, and Union Counties. Our firm is fully licensed and insured throughout the state as well as being an Underground Storage Tank Certified Closure Contractor.

We’re proud of our professional ability to get the job done and of our personal care for how our work impacts New Jersey and the environment.

Contact us for a no-obligation quote. We’ll make your tank troubles a thing of the past!


Mikula Contracting, Inc. provides commercial and residential customers with a wide range of excavation, demolition, environmental, snow removal, trucking, and soil materials services. For more information, call 973-772-1684 or email or email

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