Anatomy of a Tank Removal

March 20, 2015 2:15 am0 commentsViews: 849
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xPTE-1Most homeowners who have an underground oil tank on their property are aware by now of the potential troubles it can cause—primarily, the risk of an oil leak if the tank is old or has become corroded, and the expensive soil remediation that must follow. Many decide to nip those perils in the bud by having the buried tank removed and, in most cases, installing a new tank safely aboveground.

On October 25, a crew from Professional Tank & Environmental, a Tullytown-based company, conducted a tank removal on Narcissus Lane in the Northpark section of Levittown, with a reporter on hand to observe. The process of removing a buried tank, it turns out, is less messy and more surgical than most would imagine.

The PTE crew arrived early. Brian Kuebler, the company’s owner, supervised as the men laid plywood boards carefully across the front lawn, where the tank was located. “This is to protect the grass,” said Mr. Kuebler (photo top right). “We try not to leave tracks from our excavator, if we can possibly avoid it.”

The homeowner, Geraldine Chesonis, is an original Levittowner and had been in the house since 1953. The oil tank, she recalled, was not the one that came with the house; this one was about 25 years old. She had recently stopped using oil heat and wanted the tank removed in order to head off any future headaches.

xPTE-7A PTE driver carefully steered an excavator across the plywood, its tank-like treads crunching over the boards. Its large digging claw began to scoop away grass and dirt, soon exposing the top of the oil tank (photo bottom left). Then PTE technician Dan Ricca stepped into the hole and used a reciprocating power saw to cut a large hole in the top of the tank. “There’s often some oil and sludge left, “ said Mr. Kuebler. “This gives us access so we can safely swab it out.”

After swabbing out the tank with Oil Dry, a product very similar to kitty litter, the excavator driver used the big claw to tug at the tank before gently lifting it out and setting it down. The tank appeared to be sound, with no visible rust holes. Mr. Ricca then tested a sample of soil that had been below the tank. His meter read 6 parts per million. “That small amount can normally be from the tar coating that had been around the tank when it was installed,” said Mr. Kuebler. “if we see readings over 100 ppm we recommend the soil be sent to the lab for testing or some additional exploration of the soil be done while we are on site.”

The hole was then refilled, tamped down and leveled, the plywood removed, and—except for what looked like a neat, freshly dug grave— the lawn looked exactly as if nothing had happened. “The general public has become very environmentally conscious,” said Mr. Kuebler, “and people, more often than not, are scared and worried about what could be going on with their underground tank. Most tanks can be removed and soil cleaned up with minimal cost.”

PTE owner Brian Keubler.

PTE owner Brian Keubler.

If a problem does exist, he noted, it is better to address it sooner than later. “I pride myself on not scaring people,” he said. “I educate them on their options, local regulations and costs when I sell the tank removal so there are no surprises. I explain to them that if the tank is leaking it will only make the problem bigger and more expensive in the future. Regulations on soil contamination will only get more stringent as time goes on. It’s best to have a plan to remove it within the near future.”

Professional Tank & Environmental can be reached at 215-946-1818 or through their website