Maine Department of Environmental Protection Launches Home Heating Oil Tank Health Awareness Campaign

September 6, 2011

Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP Spokesperson/Director of Education & Outreach / (207) 287-5842

-Featuring a DEP emergency spill responder who has helped to clean-up hundreds of home heating oil tank spills, the television campaign spots airing in September and October urge Mainers to have their tanks checked for internal corrosion or to upgrade to a reliable double-bottomed tank-

AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is warning Mainers of the dangers of deteriorating oil tanks in a television awareness campaign arriving on airwaves this week.

The spot features Lee Thomas, an emergency spill responder in Maine DEP’s Presque Isle office, telling viewers to have their tank’s thickness tested annually by their oil company or to replace it with a double-bottom tank.

Thomas is part of the Maine DEP Division of Response Services that is dispatched to an average of one spill a day from residential tanks, with the annual clean-up cost adding up to as much as $2 million coming from the state’s Groundwater Oil Clean-Up Fund.

About three-quarters of Maine’s households – the highest share in the nation – rely on fuel oil for home heating, accounting for more than 400,000 home heating oil residential tanks in use.

Internal corrosion – a result of water and sludge build-up – is the leading cause of releases of residential oil, says David McCaskill, a senior environmental engineer in the department’s Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management. Because corrosion destroys a tank from the inside out, the deterioration isn’t often visible to homeowners until a catastrophic tank failure occurs.

In addition to a costly clean-up and fuel replacement, releases from home heating oil tanks can contaminate drinking water, degrade air quality, lead to lower property values and harm the environment.

Many Maine oil dealers have licensed technicians on their staff who can perform ultrasonic thickness tests on tanks to determine if they are deteriorating and if so, recommend a replacement before the tank fails.

Other leading causes of residential home heating oil spills are external tank damage –usually from falling ice and snow snapping off filters and leading to leaks – and overfills. Both can be prevented by a licensed oil technician installing a filter protector and a vent whistle, which sounds until a tank is full.

“For so many of us, the only time we give our oil tanks any real thought is when we’re paying to fill them,” McCaskill said. “The purpose of this campaign is to bring people’s awareness to their tanks and what may be happening inside of them before it’s too late. By taking care of your tank, you’re protecting our environment, your family’s health and your pocketbook.”

The 30-second spot will be televised throughout September and October in the Portland, Bangor and Presque Isle markets with nearly every paid buy being matched a complimentary public service announcement spot donated thanks to the generosity of Maine’s television stations and cable outlets. Tank health will also be the focus of the department’s booth at the Common Ground Fair later this month.

The hundreds of residential fuel releases are part of the nearly 3,000 oil and hazardous materials spills the department’s Division of Response Services are called to each year. If you spill any fuel or if you witness a spill or think there is a threat of one, please report it immediately to the Maine DEP’s 24-hour oil spill emergency spill response hotline at 1-800-482-0777.

To see the spot or for more information from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection about keeping your home heating oil tank safe, visit and click on “Residential Tank Safety” under the featured links.