What you need to know
3, 2003 1
4 • Number 20
w w. r e a l t o r l i n k . c a
you’re listing or selling a single family home, townhouse or
condominium apartment built before 1957, chances are there will be an
underground oil tank on the property.
because many homes in the Greater Vancouver area were originally
heated by furnace oil. The tanks were usually located in backyards and
were filled with sand or capped when natural gas became available.
now, there is no accurate data available on the number of tanks and
their exact location in the Greater Vancouver area. What we do know is
that if they haven’t been removed, they’re there.
storage tanks, even if capped and filled with sand, pose significant
risks, says Doug Roberts, manager, Environmental Protection Branch,
City of Vancouver. “Tanks corrode and rust.”
explains that any remaining oil can leach into the ground and into the
drainage system. “It can flow onto neighbouring property, into the
storm sump and waterways including ditches and streams. It can
contaminate water and pose a hazard to wildlife.”
the City of Vancouver, Fire by-law no. 8191 (sec. 4.10.3) and
the Sewer and Watercourse by-law no. 8093 (sec. 5.3) both
require that tanks that have been out of service for two years or will
not be reused, must be removed. In the other 21 villages, towns,
cities and regional districts covered by the Real Estate Board of
Vancouver, the BC Fire Code requires (sec. 184.108.40.206):
underground storage tanks have no further use or have been out of
service for two years, such tanks, together with connecting piping and
dispensers, shall…be removed from the ground.”
Poole, Lieutenant, Fire & Rescue Services for the City of
Vancouver, recommends that property owners hire a contractor
experienced in tank removal. “Before any work is done, you must
obtain a permit issued by the Fire Prevention Department and you must
follow all conditions noted on the permit.”
remaining in the tank should be pumped out and taken to a
tank must be removed.
soil must be assessed for contamination. If contamination is present,
soil and groundwater must be properly remediated, which may include
property owner must get a letter from the removal company detailing
the removal process, what was pumped out of the tank, a receipt from
the facility where the tank was taken to and the amount of dirt
brought in. It must also include photos.
is a home for sale. Both the buyer and seller know there is an
underground storage tank. The buyer agrees to buy the property. Who is
liable to remove it? The property owner is responsible for tank
the buyer and seller know about the tank. The buyer says the law
requires the seller to remove it. What does the seller have to do?
What happens if the buyer reports it? The property owner is
responsible for removing the tank. If someone reports the tank, the
City of Vancouver will respond by sending a letter outlining time
periods for removal. If the property owner does not comply, the city
is authorized to prosecute.
property contains an underground storage tank, decommissioned 10 years
ago in compliance with the law at that time, which required homeowners
to remove contents and fill with sand. What is the position now on
this tank? The tank must meet current bylaw requirements, which
means it must be removed.
happens if a property owner is demolishing a home and finds a tank? The
tank must meet current bylaw requirements, which means it must be
the REBGV homepage on realtorlink.ca under government relations –
issues – underground storage tanks or call:
& Rescue Service, City of Vancouver
Protection Branch, City of Vancouver
REALTOR LINK OCTOBER