Some tips for using fuel oil safely

snow on fence
(Farm and Dairy file photo)

Do you heat your home using fuel oil? If you answered yes than you should consider the following to help protect our environment (watershed).

Things to consider:

  • Know how to properly measure your tank and calculate the volume in the tank. Determine your tank size and know when and how much to order from your delivery company.
  • Don’t leave your tank unattended during fuel transfers. Avoid overfills!
  • Measure and monitor fuel usage and compare it to past seasons. A leaking underground fuel tank or line may cause unexplained increases in fuel consumption.
  • Avoid using the area around or under the tank as a storage area. Heavy items can damage the fill or supply pipes.
  • Protect fuel lines from damage by vehicles. Snowmobiles, heavy equipment, or heavy vehicle loads can damage underground lines if they are not adequately buried or protected. Above-ground fuel lines should be encased in protective tubing.
  • Consider using a locking cap on the fill pipe to help prevent vandalism.
  • Install a shutoff valve at the tank outlet to isolate the fuel line in case it starts to leak. If you see a leak in the line, close the valve to avoid spilling the entire tank volume.
  • Do children play around the tank? Protect fuel lines so they cannot be used as handholds for children climbing on a tank.
  • Consider a secondary containment area under an above-ground tank. A soil, sandbag, or timber berm with a fuel resistant liner will catch spills before they can contaminate surrounding areas.
  • If you take your tank out of service, empty the tank and fuel lines completely. Abandoned tanks containing residual fuel are “accidents waiting to happen.”
  • If your underground tank is taking on water, a leak may be present. Your oil burner technician can check for water or provide you with a water-finding paste so you can check for yourself.

If a spill does occur:

Accidents can happen, despite your best efforts to prevent them. In the event of a spill, the main priorities should be stopping the flow of oil at its source and containing the oil that has spilled in a safe and cautious manner.

This will help minimize the impact to the Environment (Watershed) and to your property and that of your neighbors. In most cases, cleanup consists of the removal and disposal of any contaminated soils or other media and repair or replacement of leaking tanks and/or fuel lines.

Verbal Notification Requirement

The verbal notification to the fire department, LEPC and Ohio EPA shall be made within 30 minutes of knowledge of the release, unless notification within that timeframe is impractical due to uncertain circumstances. In addition, calls to The National Response Center (NRC) shall be made for those reportable quantity releases involving CERCLA hazardous substances or oil to navigable waters as soon as possible.

The National Response Center (NRC) 24-hour number is 1-800-424-8802. The release notification for 24-hour reporting of emergencies in Ohio is 1-800-282-9378. If out of state or if the first number does not work, call 614-224-0946.

Be prepared to relay as much of the information listed below as is known or can be estimated at the time of reporting. Remember this is an initial report and estimates can be corrected in your follow-up emergency notice report.

  • Name and phone number of the person to contact for further information.
  • Location and source(s) of the release or discharge.
  • Chemical name or identify of any substance(s) involved in the release or discharge;
  • If the substance an extremely hazardous substance.
  • Estimate of the quantity (gallons or pounds) discharged into the environment.
  • Time and duration of the release or discharge.
  • The environmental medium or media into which the substance was released or discharged.
  • Potential health effects associated with the release or discharge of the substance.
  • Report precautions taken, including evacuation, remediation or other proposed response actions. This information is required under ORC, Section 3750.06(C) and OAC, Rule 3750-25-25(A)(1).


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Sean McGuire is an urban conservationist for the Mahoning SWCD. He can be reached at 330-740-7995 or email him at



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