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Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. recently removed and disposed of multiple storage tanks for a municipal client. The tanks were used to fuel a former generator and stored #2 fuel oil. Two of the tanks had a 5,000 gallon capacity and one had a 3,000 gallon capacity. These tanks needed to be treated as hazardous material due to the contents that were contained in them for years.

The process of industrial tank removal begins with obtaining any necessary permits. If the tank is below the surface, marking out existing utilities must be completed prior to breaking ground. Next, underground tanks are removed with careful observation to ensure no leaking exists or has occurred. Once the tank is safely to the surface or if the tank is an above ground tank, the empty vessel is flushed of contaminated material. Finally, the tank is safely disposed of and the site tested for contaminants if any leaks are suspected or observed.

cutting a hole in the tank suctioning the tank

Making entry into the tanks

Why Remove Industrial Tanks?

Many organizations from government entities to corporations have underground storage vessels that are candidates for industrial tank removal. Some have reached the end of their intended usage while others may be damaged and leaking. In some cases, the storage tanks are no longer used because the needs of the owner have changed.

A major concern for any of the situations listed above is liability to the government or corporate organization. Tanks that have aged run the risk of leaking and becoming a major environmental hazard and should be removed before they become one. Tanks that are already suspected of leaking or that are damaged should be removed and any affected area should be inspected by an environmental remediation company trained in hazardous materials.

Some may think that old unused tanks are best left in place but the reality is that these tanks still contain the hazardous remnants of what was contained in them and thus pose a risk as long as they remain in place.

flushing tanks from inside industrial tank removal

Flushing the tanks from inside

Environmental Concerns with Industrial Tank Removal

If the tank is known to be leaking or found to be leaking at any point in the removal process an environmental emergency spill response team should be called to secure the location. If there is no leak then the hazardous material aspect of the job is not gone but merely contained and localized in the tanks. When the job is complete soil and site testing must be performed to ensure a safe result.

Proper Disposal of Industrial Tanks

At the bottom of most of these tanks is years and sometimes decades worth of hazardous silt that must be removed prior to disposal of the tank. Otherwise, you’re just moving the hazardous material to a new site without fixing the problem. Technicians performing industrial tank removal must first gain entry to the tanks, usually by carefully torching a hole in the side of the tank. Then technicians in fully compliant biohazard suits with respirators enter the tanks and ensure they are flushed clean into a tank for hazardous material which will be vacuum pumped into a truck and then trucked offsite and disposed of properly. Once the material in the tank has been removed the tank itself will be trucked away and disposed of in accordance with local hazmat protocols.

industrial tank removal trucking offsite

Trucking the empty tanks offsite

Avoiding Structural Concerns when Removing Industrial Tanks

In this case, the tanks were above ground so no further actions were required. If the tank was removed from the ground the void that once contained the tank now needs to be assessed. If the tank was located away from any buildings then it likely can be filled back in with new dirt. In cases where the tank was located near a building then prior to removal the site should be surveyed to ensure that removing the tank does not affect the structural integrity of the building. If the structural integrity of the building may be compromised, supports such as helical piers may need to be installed until the void can be backfilled.

Insurance Restoration Specialists, Inc. (IRS) is a premier provider of disaster recovery mitigation, environmental remediation, biohazard emergency response and HVAC inspection and cleaning in the New Jersey-Philadelphia area. IRS is certified by NADCA and have Certified Air Systems Cleaning Technicians and a Certified Ventilation System Inspector on staff. Services include mold removal, water damage restoration, fire damage restoration, flood damage cleanup, smoke damage remediation, and biohazard remediation. Insurance Restoration Specialists is led by Certified Industrial Hygienist Thomas Peter.