Underground storage tanks –

A clarification regarding abandonment in place

NOVEMBER • 14 • 2 0 0 3           

w w w. r e a l t o r l i n k . c a

My October 3, 2003 column focused on what realtors need to know about underground storage tanks. In it I posed the following situation to the City of Vancouver Fire & Rescue Services.

A 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? We were told that the tank must meet current bylaw requirements, which means it must be removed. Since then we’ve received a clarification. The City of Vancouver, Fire by-law no. 8191 (sec. 4.10.3) and the Sewer and Watercourse bylaw no. 8093 (sec. 5.3) both require that tanks out of service for two years or not being reused, must be removed. But there are exceptions. Doug Roberts, Manager, Environmental Protection Branch, Fire & Rescue Services, explains Fire By-Law section 4.10.3.2 Abandonment in Place:

1. Where the Fire Chief determines that it is impractical to remove an underground storage tank, such tank shall be filled with an inert material.

2. Where the Fire Chief determines that it is impractical to remove underground piping, such piping shall have the ends permanently sealed by capping or plugging.

The procedure on issuing abandonment in place permits is:

Where it is deemed impractical by the Fire Chief to remove an underground storage tank, the owner may apply to the Fire Chief for permission to abandon the tank in place. These include situations where the storage tank is:

  • located in whole or in part beneath a permanent building or other facility and that excavation of the storage tank is not practical;

  • so large or of a type of construction that the excavation of the tank is not practical;

  • inaccessible to the heavy equipment necessary for removal of the storage tank, or

  • situated so that the removal of the storage tank would endanger the structural integrity of nearby buildings or other facilities.

The following steps must be taken to decommission a storage tank:

  1. All remaining oil must be pumped out from the storage tank and connected pipes.

  2. Sufficient holes are cut along the top of the storage tank to inspect the tank.

  3. Any residual oil or sludge along the top of the storage tank must be removed.

  4. The tank must be filled with an inert material such as low density concrete slurry mix, or sand/gravel. The access must be large enough to ensure the tank has been fully filled.

  5.  Associated piping shall be removed from the ground or purged of vapors and the ends permanently sealed by capping or plugging.

  6. Written verification from a licensed contractor is required to the District Fire Inspector for workcomplete.

  7. For your own protection, soil around the old tank site should be tested for contamination if contamination is found, you must contact the Environmental Protection Branch for instructions on how to replace soil with clean fill.

For more information

Visit the REBGV homepage on RealtorLink.ca under government relations – issues – underground storage tanks, or contact: John Poole, Lieutenant, Fire & Rescue Services, City of Vancouver. 604-873-7593 or Doug Roberts, Manager, Environmental Protection Branch, 604-873-7567.