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Oil company says, "There's nothing we can do."

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  • NY_Rob
    NY_Rob Member Posts: 1,370
    edited January 2018
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    Not for nothing, but if I no longer used oil to heat my home and had the basement tank removed... I would permanently seal off/cut off that outside oil fill pipe!

    This is not the first time we've read about oil co's filling a tank that isn't there. I personally know someone who had that happen to them too, their home was eventually condemned as well.
    Rich_49
  • Gsmith
    Gsmith Member Posts: 433
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    This happened to my next door neighbor a few years ago. I arrived home from a New Year's Eve party to find the county haz-mat team and fire department in our driveways, because of the fuel oil odor. Neighbor had oil furnace replaced with gas but did not have the oil filler pipe removed or capped inside. Driver read the wrong address, hunted around like extensively to find the oil filler pipe in the foundation bushes, finally did and left 300 gallons of oil and a bill for the delivery in the door. Oil company's insurance carrier eventually covered the repairs, including quite a few weeks in a hotel, dry cleaning of essentially every fabric item in the house, removal and replacement of the basement concrete floor, NJ environmental department inspections (it was after all an oil spill). All was made right in the end, but very stressful on the homeowner. I consulted with an odor expert at Duke University on the threshold concentration for fuel oil odors and there seems to be essentially no concentration at which humans can smell fuel oil, hence, many times the homes in which this happens are never habitable again, or until all of the porous material (concrete, etc) that was touched by oil has been removed/replaced. From a very small sample of internet searches it appears that quite a few of these incidents occur each year in almost all areas where heating oil is used, as a result I'm surprised that the oil companies and particularly their insurance companies do not have more aggressive procedures to prevent mis-deliveries. It was quite costly in the case I know about.

    For want of a nail the kingdom was lost. Whenever an oil heater is replaced by gas or other non-oil fuel, be sure to remove the filler pipe, or at least put a hard to remove cap on the pipe on the inside of the basement where the oil delivery person cannot remove it. They are often just trying to do their job and make a delivery in difficult weather conditions to homes which probably really do need the oil, but mistakes happen, so remove the filler lines or cap them.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,549
    edited January 2018
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    I agree, Rob, and it's happened many times. The person who removed the tank also should have removed the fill pipe, but the driver should have been listening for the whistle, which wasn't there. The company is wrong no matter how you look at it, and I think their response to the family is uncaring.
    Retired and loving it.
    IronmanCanuckerunclejohnRich_49
  • NY_Rob
    NY_Rob Member Posts: 1,370
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    My wife told it also happened to one of her clients... they were out of their house for six months while it was remediated!
  • Ironman
    Ironman Member Posts: 7,379
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    My question would also be where was the mechanical inspector when the conversion was done? IDK about the jurisdiction where this happened, but a conversion to gas or electric would have necessitated a permit and inspection anywhere in my state. The inspector should have required the removal of the fill line.

    There's more than enough blame to go around here: the contractor who did it; the inspector; the oil company. And the poor homeowner is getting no help from anyone.

    I generally don't care for lawyers, but these folks need to find a good one.
    Bob Boan
    You can choose to do what you want, but you cannot choose the consequences.
  • DanHolohan
    DanHolohan Member, Moderator, Administrator Posts: 16,549
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    And the whole house was condemned. Jeez.
    Retired and loving it.
  • STEVEusaPA
    STEVEusaPA Member Posts: 6,505
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    More to Dan's point, you know within a few seconds, 5 at most, that something is wrong.
    Furthermore, this systemic problem occurs once again out of greed. Low price, take order over the phone, deliver oil like pizza-fast.

    My insurance company demands on the first delivery, I go and inspect the tank, and write up a report (they provide a card/checklist). Then mark the fill pipe with my tag.
    Had this company put this policy in place, this could've been avoided.

    Also, like every other trade/job, people are getting dumber.
    And yes it's someone's fault that pipe wasn't removed/capped.
    As far as the oil company's response, although heartless on the surface, probably what they were told to do.

    My insurance company says, secure the sight, try to minimize the damage. But after their cleanup crew arrives, they want you out of the picture.
    Now this happened to me once. Auto delivery customer switched to gas in the summer, didn't notify us. I went to make a delivery, opened the nozzle, immediately saw oil shooting by the basement window inside. They cut the fill pipe flush to the wall on the inside, and put a stud there, building their closet.
    About 6 gallons of fuel, about $45000 to clean up. But I did the initial clean up (carry all that on the truck), removed and bagged everything oil soaked, and put them up in a hotel for the night until the insurance company came and took over.

    The insurance company will probably either payout big if they can't push the blame back on whoever removed that tank, or buy the house.

    Larger companies are usually self insured for the first million, and handle this with their own crews, otherwise their liability insurance cost would put them out of business.


    There was an error rendering this rich post.

    Ironman
  • rick in Alaska
    rick in Alaska Member Posts: 1,457
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    Around here there are very few underground fuel tanks, but there are quite a few underground water cisterns, which coincidentally use the same black pipes coming out of the ground.
    Just before I moved here, I heard of a fuel oil delivery into one of these cisterns. The owner realized it when fuel was coming out the faucet.
    Imagine trying to clean up that mess!
    Rick
  • unclejohn
    unclejohn Member Posts: 1,833
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    I don't think it matters who removed the tank. Nobody called and asked for oil. I know of two such incidents and one was in my neighborhood. In fact the guy worked for Trane Co. here in Rockville. took out the oil and instaled a heat pump canceled his oil delivery and sawed off the pipes inside the house but due to the fact that the pipes entered the house about 5' down he just dug out about a foot and pushed the pipes 90* into the dirt and buried them. You would think that would have deterred the delivery man, it did not. He dug them up set em straight and filled the basement. When I switch to gas [permits we don't need no stinkin permits] My tank and all are right where they have always been, my hope was the oil co. would come by and fill it up then I could sell it. Just shut the little valve at the bottom of the tank.
    Solid_Fuel_Man
  • SlamDunk
    SlamDunk Member Posts: 1,592
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    I think less than a gallon leaked near the burner of my mom’s furnace after it was serviced. I thought the house should have been condemned too because it stank so bad!

  • Ron Jr._3
    Ron Jr._3 Member Posts: 603
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    Most definitely it's the oil company's fault. Mostly. But like others have said , whoever did the conversion and removed the tank should be held liable also. Were permits filed for the conversion? Pass inspection? Lotta little details that snowballed to a literal disaster for that family.
  • Solid_Fuel_Man
    Solid_Fuel_Man Member Posts: 2,646
    edited January 2018
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    As an electrician, if I do work at a home or commercial building etc and have the power disconnected, when the utility comes and reconnects and the house filles with smoke, and became condemed, is it their fault or mine?

    We all know the driver should have noticed the lack of whistle, but maybe whistles are lax in that area (I hope not!) who knows. But whoever did the conversion left a serious error on their jobsite of not demoing the oil fill. It is one thing if the tank is left in place, but to just cut off a pipe inside and leave it that way?

    Mistakes happen with us, the contractor, and with delivery people as well. They are often run as fast as possible and in poor weather as well. Would you cut off a gas line after the utility removed the meter and just leave it open? I think the party responsible for the conversion has the greatest responsibility, but the oil company made a grievous error as well.
    Serving Northern Maine HVAC & Controls. I burn wood, it smells good!
    ratio
  • Steamhead
    Steamhead Member Posts: 16,904
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    Once again we see that you can't fix stupid.

    Conversion contractor didn't remove pipes = stupid.

    Oil truck driver didn't double-check address = stupid.

    Oil truck driver didn't listen for whistle = stupid.

    And a family is suffering because people were stupid.
    All Steamed Up, Inc.
    Towson, MD, USA
    Steam, Vapor & Hot-Water Heating Specialists
    Oil & Gas Burner Service
    Consulting
  • EBEBRATT-Ed
    EBEBRATT-Ed Member Posts: 15,635
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    Oh, there's something the oil company can do. They can get sued!

    In Ma. you disconnect the tank and don't remove the fill and vent=jail time.

    The oil company is responsible for the amount of spill and not for paying attention and listening for the whistle.

    Who ever removed the tank is responsible as well for not removing the fill and vent.
    Sal SantamauraSolid_Fuel_Man
  • New England SteamWorks
    New England SteamWorks Member Posts: 1,520
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    This thing happens so often it's unfathomable. And @EBEBRATT-Ed is right here. The fill has to be removed. That solves the problem and is the law in RI & MA. After all, we all know you can't fix stupid. And that is why the law is what it is. There will always be drivers who will go to the wrong address. Inconvenient when a tank is attached. Catastrophic when one isn't.

    There are two types of oil companies. The full service guys have insurance requirements for inspections prior to signing on a new account, and two golden rules: If the fill isn't marked, or there is no whistle: No delivery. And for the most part, their customer base is regular and known by their drivers. Guess what? They cost more.

    Then you have the COD guys. They don't have many regular customers. The churn is enormous. New addresses and one time deliveries are the norm. And usually their customers have, shall we say, cash flow issues. Often times their customers started out as customers with the full service guys, but failed to pay their bills, so they were cut off. Which then sends them to the COD market. It's a circus in this world. Much harder for the driver, who never has regular stops, and not profitable for the oil company if every new customer (remember: constant churn) had to be inspected and labeled. But there is a market for low cost oil, and where there is a market, companies will follow.

    Which is why the fill has to be removed.

    And not to defend the oil company, of whom I know nothing, but there is one bit of advise that every single lawyer who ever practiced law dishes out: "Say nothing and talk to no one".
    New England SteamWorks
    Service, Installation, & Restoration of Steam Heating Systems
    newenglandsteamworks.com
    STEVEusaPA
  • Grallert
    Grallert Member Posts: 665
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    It's law here in Ma. as @New England SteamWorks and @EBEBRATT-Ed said. That was nearly the first thing I learned when started in this field. But the truth is and it's not an excuse but the truth is a lot of times tanks are removed by a guy. No license limited for thought etc. I've seen it and called home owners on it. Pointed it out to a realtor once.
    The previous owners of my 200 year old house had 1200 gallons delivered to their dirt floor cellar because the three legged tank fell over. Obviously the whistle stopped at some point during the fill up. Bad things happen through ignorance, lack of thought, stupidity etc. It's a sad story for sure.
    Miss Hall's School service mechanic, greenhouse manager,teacher and dog walker
    Mad Dog_2Alan Welch