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Underground Fuel Tanks

Posted By: sanford

Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 03:29 AM

Just wondering if anyone has experience with the rules for removal of old fuel storage tanks. I'm considering purchasing a piece of property that was an old Phillips station back in the day. There is a very good chance that the underground tanks are still on the property. The place hasn't sold fuel since at least the mid sixties, the old building and a couple of the old rental cabins are still standing, but in very rough condition.
My question is does anyone have an idea what all would have to be done to buy a place like this. I've heard that banks won't lend any money if the tanks are still there, and what kind of costs are associated with removing the tanks. I looked on the MO DNR web site a little earlier today, but didn't have time to fully research it, yet. I thought that maybe someone here may have some personal experience.
Posted By: Jay Leeper

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 03:48 AM

Just my opinion but I think someone would have to be nuts to knowingly buy a piece of property with underground tanks. Unless you are a millionaire, the cost of clean up could be many many thousand of dollars and the liability will go on forever. There is a reason banks won't touch them. I wouldn't even consider it.
But that's just me.
Posted By: HI-OCTANE

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 03:51 AM

Sounds like you might be getting in to some environmental problems, with under ground fuel tanks that have been in the ground that long. Big money cleaning up contaminated sites and lots rules and regulations dealing with the EPA.
Posted By: Jack Sim

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 04:17 AM

I live in St. John, MO, a suburb of St. Louis. The next community over is Overland, MO. QT has stations all over this part of MO and they decided to put a station on a busy intersection in Overland, so they purchase the old building that sat on the property, and an old taxi garage on the next property. It seemed that the taxi garage had a gas pump and a underground tank, and the leakage was so bad they have to go down almost 20 feet on the entire property to remove the contaminated dirt.
Another story.
Two M&S 80 sat in the middle of a property off the side of a large industrial building, again here in St. Louis County. I had been keeping my eye on the pump waiting for the right time to purchase them. One day I saw that they were removing the pumps and were digging down to remove the tanks.
After buying the pump I started talking to a guy about the removal of the tanks. There were more guys there in dress suits than there were workers. I asked him who they were. He said that guy is with the federal EPA, that guy is with the state EPA, that guy is with the County EPA. Finally got around to asking him how much all this was costing the owner of the business. He said in excess of $15,000 and this was 15 years ago.

I know of one other instance in St. Louis City that cost Phillips over $100,000 to clean up a property, and get this, the property was owned by the Shell Oil Co. and leased by Phillips.

It is not how much it cost to remove the tanks, it is how much does it cost to remove all the contaminated soil and all those old metal tanks leaked. New tanks are fiberglass and are two tanks, one inside the other.

As stated above, unless you have just the the Power Ball, I wouldn't even ask how much they want for the property.

Jack Sim
Posted By: huskybob

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 06:14 AM

A year and a half ago in the small town I live in a Bank had an underground furnace oil tank that hadn't been used in years removed professionally. It still had some fuel in it and some leaks. It cost the bank over $5,000 to remove a 300gal. tank.
You might want to really think about the downside potential of buying the property.
Good Luck,
Posted By: Neil Gerrard

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 06:39 AM

This is how I got started collecting pumps. I worked for an environmental engineering company that specialized in tank removal, it took off in the mid 80's. I started my own company in 91 to help myself as well as the small folks too who couldn't afford to pay the ridiculous prices involved.
The long and short of it is it can be relatively cheap or it can bankrupt you.
If the station has not been used for many years that could be good, gas does degrade over time. Groundwater is the biggest issue, being that gas floats (somewhat) it tends to spread, even beyond your property line leaving you open to lawsuits by neighbors. Gas consists mailny of Benzene, Ethyl Benzene, Toluene and Xylene. Other stuff too but this is the stuff you need to worry about, Benzene is somewhat water soluable forcing you into a pump and treat situation, easy but expensive and long term. Check with the local agencies re: groundwater levels, seasonal highs etc.Soil contamination is the easiest as far as labor but not knowing your area I don't know what your local regulations are as far as burnng the soil to release hydrocarbons, surface treatment (baking it in the sun on a liner) etc.
EPA generally stays out of local remediations unless they get very large.
If you're not sure if there's tanks there start with the local historical society looking for pics. Look for vent pipes, usually up against a building, probably an inch and a half to two inches. You can rent an inductive metal locator and send a signal down the vent line to the tank(s), also works from the island piping. Remember, not all tanks leaked but all had overspill and if you get some yahoo who wants to sample near the fill they will find contamination.

I bought a derelict station from the county, did the cleanup and still made huge money when I sold it. If you're careful who you hire you can make it work but a site assesment is imperative before you jump into anything. One other thing to keep in mind there has been legal precedence established holding oil companies partially to fully liable for former sites that were branded by them, not necessarliy owned by them. The theory being they profited so they should share the cost of clean up. Good luck!

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 10:54 AM

30 per yard to haul contaminated soil doens't seem bad but all other costs will ruin your day. As far as oil companies helping with the cost, you will spend more in legal fees "asking"
for their help than it's worth. Even sending in a field team to "poke" the grouind with wells to determine what's there is not cheap. never assume on a large station thatit's less than 50k when all is said and that could be the tip of the iceberg.
Posted By: oldnfuelish

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 11:37 AM

tony if you need anymore help on it a good friend of mine also does this.and am sure he would talk with you about the details.

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 11:48 AM


Posted By: KZ1000

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 11:52 AM

I would NOT run from the deal, we had a similar property in my area that sat because everybody was "afraid it might be contaminated" a local junk guy paid cash for the property,($75,000) on a gamble, he had the tank dug up, property inspected and all was clear, 2 months later Cumberland Farms bought the property from him for $300,000.

Banks will not loan money unless it has had a 21E test that clears it. Not all property's are contaminated. Like Neil says, you need to hire a legit co. to do an honest test.
Posted By: gatorgaspumps

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 03:14 PM

Each state is different but in Washington the seller is responsible for declaring if there is a tank and the clean up. In Eastern Oregon where drainage is good they allowed the farmers to fill there empty tanks with sand and leave them in the ground. Good luck. Richard
Posted By: Vermonter

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 08:30 PM

Hi Tony,
I am a retired attorney and have dealt with this issue many times before. What everyone above has said is generally correct. Buying the property is fraught with potential disasters. Without going into all of the ins and out of the law, lets just say that you (and all other prior owners) can be on the hook for remediation (clean up costs)which is VERY expensive. The best advice I can give you if you want to go forward is make sure you have a good attorney with experience in property law with malpractice insurance. And dont be shy about asking him/her how much coverage they have.
That being said, there are some opportunities to buy properties like this out there. Some cities have agreed to do the clean up or accept responsibility for liability in order to get the property on the tax roll again, so check into that.
Your atty can put contingencies on the purchase and sale contract that will help protect you such as testing of the tanks/groundwater. Just be aware that you are on the hook even if you did not create the pollution. Good luck,
Posted By: Jarvis

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Tue Feb 09 2010 09:53 PM

Friend of mine bought a house next door to his moms which belonged to his moms family but for him to buy it they had to auction it (long story). Across the street from the old farm house is the garage which used to be a phillips 66 station. He has pics when his mom was little standing next to the pump.
Again it's next door to his moms house and he knows the tanks were not removed. The auction company had someone come out with a metal detector and he has in writing the tanks are gone.

He was moving some dirt on the side to make for more parking and found a buried Phillips 66 red/white sign. He has never tried to look for the tanks. LOL
I know on the farms around here the farmers just dig them up on a late sat. night and poof there gone.

Could the tank be dug up before it gets sold?
Posted By: sanford

Re: Underground Fuel Tanks - Wed Feb 10 2010 02:42 AM

Hey guys, thanks for all the views and comments. You have given me a lot to think about. At any other time this could be an interesting project, but I think with all the BS that I already have going in my life right now, this may just enough to put me the rest of the way over the edge. lol
I think that I will call the guy again and see if he can get the signed paper work that is required and maybe consider it then. I am going to talk to him about letting me go through the old station looking for petro artifacts. There used to be a nice pair of fluted poles with the bonnets and lights out front by the old island that I was always gonna check on, he told me that someone stole them a couple of years ago.
Thanks again,
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