Natural gas heat was starting to become the most popular type of heating system for homes in the Seattle area starting in 1964. Older homes in our more established neighborhoods may still use oil heat, but many more have converted to natural gas or electric heat in the meantime. What happened to all those old oil tanks?
How do I determine if there is an oil tank on a property, and whether or not it has been decommissioned?
This is not an uncommon question to answer as a Realtor when a home is sold and transferred to a new homeowner. To determine if an oil tank is on a property – or if it has been decommissioned, the first step is to contact the local Fire Marshal’s Office.
The Fire Department does not have records of the location of underground heating oil tanks, because a Fire Department permit is not required to install underground heating oil tanks. However, the Permit Section staff in the Fire Marshal’s Office for the City of Seattle, can check for any record of the removal or decommissioning of an oil tank at your address conducted under permit after 1997 for residential properties; and after 1984 for commercial properties.
The City of Seattle is now processing public disclosure requests through a web portal called the City of Seattle Public Records Request Center (PRRC). The PRRC is designed to assist you in organizing and tracking the progress of your request(s) and downloading records.
With the transition to the PRRC, the City will be charging minimal fees for copying and transmitting electronic and non-electronic records in accordance with state law. Submit your request(s) into the PRRC website and the City will communicate with you through the PRRC going forward. All communications sent via the PRRC will appear in your email and can be tracked through your PRRC account. You will receive an email with your login information and additional instructions regarding your current request for records.
Most decommissioning reports have only been in place for the past 15 years, so if it was done earlier, a Seattle Fire Department permit was not required to remove or decommission an underground tank.
Other cities are similar in this method of investigation, so depending on where you live, you’ll want to contact the fire department responsible – whether in city limits or with the County if you live in an unincorporated area.
If you need to investigate the possibility of an abandoned oil tank further, most oil tank companies offer locating services if you are unsure if – or where an underground storage tank is buried on the property.