The existence of home heating oil tanks, either below ground or on the surface, continues to be a concern for some residents.
While View Royal Coun. John Rogers acknowledges oil-burning heating is not going away anytime soon, he hopes to lessen the risk of ecological damage from external leaks locally and around B.C.
Last month, his motion to the Union of B.C. Municipalities’ annual meeting, calling on the province to legislate changes to enhance oil tanks’ safety and security, was tabled for later discussion.
“The regulations are the province’s purview, and if the province were to take this on, every municipality would receive the benefit,” Rogers said.
The motion called on the province to legislate mandatory registration and tagging of home heating oil tanks – much like propane tanks – as being in good condition, and prohibit the filling of untagged tanks; create a mandatory inspection system including authorized inspector access; place liability on fuel delivery companies for spills from tanks they fill and require those companies to carry related insurance; add a surcharge on heating oil fuel sales to cover any public clean up costs associated to leakage from properties where the owner has self-identified as having a heating oil tank, and require proper decommissioning of tanks that no longer meet certification or are unused for a prescribed time.
Ensuring one’s home heating oil tank is safe, secure and in good operating condition is the homeowner’s responsibility. That said, some local fuel suppliers regularly inspect oil tanks for signs of damage or leakage.
“Our drivers visually inspect the tanks, and if there are problems, we don’t come back until the tank is replaced,” Mia Simmons, office manager with Victoria Coal and Heating, said. “If it’s questionable, they take a picture and send it to me, and I get hold of the owner [to let them know].”
For some time, insurance companies have required homeowners to move oil tanks outdoors, as well as ensuring their tank meets B.C. fire and building code standards for construction and maximum age.
The Capital Regional District has a guide for homeowners to help protect the environment and prevent disasters. It offers tips on what to look for, new standards, and what to do in an emergency.
Saanich has dealt with multiple contaminations of Colquitz Creek due to fuel oil leaks. Since 2012, its crews have responded to reports of six buried oil tanks that failed, four copper lines leaking (running from the tank to the furnace) and 12 above ground tanks leaking.
“We do know that there can be severe problems when tanks have been unknowingly left in the ground,” Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes said. “For new homeowners, it has caused severe hardship and environmental damage. Buried tanks are a continuing concern in Saanich we seem to have a fairly robust approach to that.”
Such incidents, and a general movement toward taking direct action to address climate change, are among the reasons Saanich is encouraging homeowners on oil to switch to cleaner, more efficient home heating options.
Saanich is touting various rebates and incentives for switching from oil to a heat pump system, including $6,700 toward the heat pump and up to $1,000 toward upgrading your electrical service, plus a group purchase rebate of $500 when homeowners band together to make purchases.
The CRD, Saanich, Victoria, Esquimalt and Central Saanich, with the help of City Green, are also providing supports for home and building owners to make their buildings more climate-friendly through bringithome4climate.ca.
While Simmons said the oil tank industry has “turned around” in recent years by offering many options and 30-year tank guarantees, she said the idea of tagging and registering tanks could be a good one.
Rogers plans to provide the UBCM executive with further details around his motion in hopes that it may make it onto next year’s recommended list.