A few weeks ago, C-VILLE printed a story I wrote about the problem of gas tanks leaking underground and ruining drinking water wells. An Albemarle family provided a vivid illustration of the problem: They’d been living for a year in a house where the tap water smelled and tasted bad and, tests revealed, contained gasoline components like benzene. These had come from an abandoned gas tank at a former gas station next door.
The Trauds of Keswick, whose well was ruined by gasoline.
As the story described, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality got involved and set the Trauds up with a plan to fix the problem, essentially by drilling them a new well on a different part of their property.
After this piece published, I got a letter from two environmental geologists named Vincent Day and Vincent Ruark. They told me they have experience with these kinds of situations and wanted to add some details to what I’d written. In particular, their comments about a different kind of tank—those that store home heating oil—caught my eye.
"Even if you purchased a home and had no knowledge whatsoever of the presence of the [leaking home heating oil] tank," they wrote, "you as the current owner—not the seller who knew about the tank—will…have to satisfy DEQ investigation and clean-up requirements." Yikes!
They go on: "Although it would seem easy to spot an UST [underground storage tank]—usually there is a fill pipe and a vent pipe sticking out of the ground, sometimes those pipes have either been obscured by landscaping and plants, or they may have been removed when an owner ‘abandons’ a tank in place after converting from an oil heat system to new heat pump or other heating system."
So it’s buyer beware, and even more than that, beware of something you might not even be able to see.
Even more than the financial repercussions, petroleum products in your tap water are scary for your health. Those of you with wells at home, do keep it in mind.