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Domestic oil spills

Over the past few years there have been several serious domestic oil pollution incidents in the area.

Incidents of oil pollution can cause serious environmental damage, lead to contaminated land and prove potentially harmful to health and property. Through the pollution of rivers and groundwater, there may also be a threat to drinking water supplies, fish and other aquatic life. The investigation and clean-up costs can exceed £20,000.

Residents who have domestic oil tanks assume that their home insurance policy will cover the clean-up costs following a spill. However, this is not always the case. We recommend that households check with their insurance companies, to ensure that both the immediate aftermath of an oil leak and the costs of any subsequent site investigations and clean-up are covered.

To help reduce the risk of oil leaks and spills you are advised to:

  • regularly check your oil tank, boiler and pipes for leaks or corrosion
  • if you notice a sudden increase in the amount of oil you are using, check for leaks. Even a minor leak can add up to a large loss of fuel over time
  • carefully check your current fuel stock before re-ordering and, if possible, supervise deliveries
  • ensure your boiler is regularly serviced by an Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) registered engineer
  • site new fuel tanks away from property boundaries, building openings, drains, streams and ponds.

For further advice regarding tank locations contact our Building Control team.

Identifying an oil leak

There are several warning signs that you may have an oil leak.

These include:

  • a strong smell of solvent, petrol, or oil inside or outside your home
  • black stains and dead plants or grass around your tank
  • a sudden increase in the amount of fuel you use.

If you suspect an oil leak, you should follow these steps:

  • try to stop it at the source
  • use absorbents such as sand to prevent it flowing into drains or waterways
  • try to find out where the leak is coming from
  • switch off your oil supply at the tank and arrange to have it emptied
  • arrange for an engineer to repair or replace your tank or pipework
  • if the leak could affect a stream, pond or other water supply, call the Environment Agency
  • never use detergents or a hose to wash the spill away
  • keep your home well-ventilated by opening windows and doors
  • call your insurance company or landlord and inform them of the leak
  • if you smell oil in your home, call our Environmental Protection team
  • do not hesitate taking action.

You are strongly urged to contact us and we will offer advice on the steps necessary to address the issue.

Failure to properly address a significant oil spill could lead to one or more of the following:

  • major liabilities to compensate other adjacent landowners
  • significant loss of value of your property
  • determination of the land as "contaminated land" under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

We cannot clear up the spill for you. However, we can offer advice on how to address the spill.

Contact Environmental Health 

Telephone: 01202 123 789.

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