Wealden District Council

Oil Storage

As a rural district, many Wealden households and businesses are fuelled by heating oil.

Although leaks are not a common occurrence, some have been known to cost thousands of pounds to clean up and much more than that, when oil enters a watercourse, whether directly or through the groundwater. On entering a watercourse, oil can spread and contaminate a large area quickly, so it is important to resolve issues as soon as possible if a leak occurs.

If leaked oil spreads to the foundations of your property or your neighbour's property, the oil can spread up through the fabric of the building, damaging damp proofing and causing potentially dangerous levels of fumes inside the property. It can also attack plastic drinking water pipework under the ground and so contaminate your drinking water supply.

Most oil leaks occur from the pipework and tank, usually from old neglected systems. Occasionally however, leaks occur from recent works done on the system by contractors, so it can be prudent to carry out checks after the work has been completed.

If you notice that the oil level in your tank has dropped suddenly or you think you've used a lot more oil than normal, get your system checked out by an OFTEC registered technician before re-filling your tank. Similarly, if you notice a strong smell of oil in and around your property that is a lot stronger than the normal venting fumes from the tank, get it checked out as soon as possible.

It is also advisable to check your household insurance for cover in the event of an oil leak from your heating system. If you are not covered, then make sure this is added to your policy. Your insurance company will then be your first port of call in the event of a leak.

Preventative advice

We recommend:

  • Get advice from the Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) about the best site location for your tank. They will know the current building regulations in relation to oil storage.
  • Your tank should be at least 10m from a pond or ditch and at least 50m if possible from a borehole or spring.
  • Check your tank on a regular basis and look for corrosion, bulging, damage, interference and discuss any signs of leaks with an OFTEC registered technician.
  • Supervise all deliveries and allow easy access to and around the tank.
  • Ensure the stop tap is working and place a bucket underneath it to catch any small drops.
  • Know where pipes lie underground so that damage to them can be prevented through DIY or building work.
  • Protect your tank with a bund or make sure any new tank is integrally bunded ('double skinned tanks')
  • Never leave sight gauge valves open.
  • Get your tank serviced at least once a year by an OFTEC registered technician.
  • Keep a bucket of sand close by to absorb small spills.
  • Keep and eye on your tank and oil levels from time to time.

What to do when there is a spill or leak

In the event of a spill or leak:

  • During an oil delivery: Stop the flow at the source by turning off the tap and stop the tanker from dispensing fuel.
  • Turn off your boiler and try to ascertain the source of the leak. Is it the pipework or tank?
  • Call the Environment agency's free 24-hr emergency pollution hotline on 0800 807 060.
  • Prevent oil entering a watercourse by mopping up with sand.
  • Never use detergents or try to wash away the oil with a hose as this makes it worse.
  • Contact your fuel supplier to arrange for any remaining fuel likely to leak out from your tank to be removed.
  • Contact your insurance company to advise them a leak has occurred and to make a claim for the cost of repair and clean up.

Further information

For more information please visit gov.uk's Storing oil at your home or business (external link) pages or visit the Oil Firing Technical Association (external link).

Contact Rother and Wealden Environmental Health Service