Until the 1960s most Vancouver home furnaces were heated by oil in underground storage tanks (UST) typically buried in yards near furnaces.  A sign that you have a Residential Underground Oil Tank (RUST) is a cast iron filler pipe that sticks up several inches out of the ground in your lawn or garden, This could also be connected to a 2″ cast iron pipe attached to your home, copper supply lines, or maybe an indentation in your property, or oil maybe present in your sump. If you see any of these signs,

RUST removal normally ranges from $1800-$2500 plus permit fee, tank pumping and cleaning, testing and reporting. Your tank is carefully exposed for removal by hand or excavation. The tank is cut open to be pumped out and cleaned by a certified waste hauler, and have the site tested by a certified environmental consultant. After the site is tested and cleared of contaminants, the site is backfilled with clean sand and restored it to its original condition. Different municipalities will require inspection of the site before, during and after the work is completed.  A report would be submitted along with a permit stating that the tank has been removed properly and all paperwork is submitted to all departments involved.

It is important that you hire a reputable oil tank company.  Having an unethical or inexperienced oil tank company can cost you un-necessary expense.


Eventually rust corrosion can cause holes to form in the tanks. These holes allow water to enter the tank or oil to seep out contaminating surrounding soil and groundwater. Buried RUST’s can cause a variety of environmental, legal and economic concerns for owners and potential buyers of the property.

All soil testing is done through a hired independent Environmental Consultant. This consultant works with your contractor to make sure the job is completed to the regulations stated by your municipality and the Ministry of Environment .  Soil tests determine if there are signs of petroleum product in the ground. If the soil meets the current standards set out by the Ministry of Environment, the site is backfilled with clean material.  If the soil does not meet the current standards, the contaminated soil is removed and disposed of to a certified remediation site. Contact us for further details regarding removal of contaminated soil.


If you discover that oil has leaked out of the tank, additional testing the soil would be required. These tests determine whether the levels are above or below the limits set by the province. Smelling the soil will not give you accurate results.  IF soil falls above the guidelines set out by the province of BC, the soil must be removed in order for the site to be deemed clear of contamination. You are not required to remove contamination from your site, but your site will be registered as a contaminated site.  This will greatly reduce the ability to finance or sell the site.

Contaminated soil is properly disposed of at two licensed locations in the lower mainland, After the site is cleared of all contaminates and the resulting tests determine the soil is clean, the site will be backfilled with clean, granular material. The site is restored to its original condition.

BC Fire Code

The British Columbia Fire Code governs the removal or abandonment of an underground oil storage tank. If an owner or contractor removes an underground storage tank, or decommissions in place, or temporarily takes it out of service, the British Columbia Fire Code requires the owner to use good engineering practices. In addition, local municipalities may also regulate the removal or abandonment of an underground oil storage tank. Click here for links to various municipal regulations or click below for information on the BC Fire Code and underground storage tanks.

Annex C of NFPA 30, “Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code.”

API RP 1604, “Closure of Underground Storage Tanks.”

How do I determine that I have a tank?

A sign that you have a Residential Underground Oil Tank (RUST) is a cast iron filler pipe that sticks up several inches out of the ground in your lawn or garden, This could also be connected to a 2″ cast iron pipe attached to your home, copper supply lines, or maybe an indentation in your property, or oil maybe present in your sump. If your home was built after 1970, or when natural gas was introduced in your area, chances are you don’t have a tank.

If you are not sure your property has a tank, you would perform a full tank scan of your property with either a metal detector or by performing a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) Scan. GPR  is a state of the art system is used in areas that require more than a metal detector, or when conventional methods cannot detect a tank.  GPR scanning is not accurate in areas with high water content in the soil.  Tank scanning is a great way to determine if you have a tank, but it is not 100% accurate.


Your contractor should have Worksafe BC and General Liability Insurance coverage on all sites.  They should provide WCB Clearance Letters and a copy of a Liability Insurance Policy. If your contractor does not provide these documents or is not covered, you will be liable for any damage or injuries while employees work on your home or for future claims regarding contamination.

What happens if I want to sell my home, or will be buying a home?

According to the Real Estate Council of British Columbia, listing agents have a duty to familiarize themselves with the property that they have listed and take necessary steps to determine if an unused or abandoned or decommissioned underground storage tank exists. This can be done by performing a tank scan or contact you local municipality or fire department. If the seller is aware of an unused or abandoned underground storage tank, they have an obligation to disclose this. An unused or abandoned underground storage tank is considered to be a material latent defect and its presence must be disclosed in writing on the Property Disclosure Statement, as required by section 5-13 of the Council Rules.

How do you determine if a RUST is leaking or there is contamination?

Most residential oil tanks are made of 1/4″ steel. They were never designed to be underground for 50 years. They will corrode under the right conditions. Holes will develop and oil will eventually leak into its surroundings. Sometimes there will be signs of a leaking tank in your drainage system. Other times, the tank will need to be removed and the soil tested before you will know. Soil smell cannot determine the severity of contamination.

How much does it cost to remove a RUST?

The average costs to remove a buried 350 gallon residential tank are usually from $1500-$2200. This does not include any environmental testing or tank content removal and cleaning. Some municipalities also require permits which can range from $100 to $450. Initial soil testing and reporting costs approximately $1600.  Typically you should budget around $5,000 – $6,000 for a proper removal and testing.

How long does it take?

Normally it takes between 1 and 2 days to remove a tank that hasn’t contaminated the surrounding area. Soil testing can take between 1 and 5 days.

What happens when my tank is removed and clear of any contamination?

Your contractor will provide all documentation, including permits, disposal slips, soil test results and receipts. This ensures that your property is has met the standards set out by the various agencies for your area. The Enviromental Consultant will fill out all paperwork and submit the final report to all government agencies.

What happens if my site is contaminated?

If the site is contaminated, the Environmental Management Act and the Contaminated Sites Regulation requires the owner to be responsible for remediation of the property. The legislation establishes who must pay for the remediation, including, in some cases, a former owner. Remediation does not need to be done when the tank is removed, but the property will be registered as a contaminated site. If offsite migration occurs, and in some cases, an oil tank has leaked onto a neighbours property, then the person who caused the damage pays the bill. Click here to be directed to Section 16 Facts Sheet of the BC Ministry of Environment or refer to the Polluter-Pays Principle below.

The remediation liability provisions are based on the “polluter-pays principle.” It holds that those who cause contamination should be responsible for paying the cleanup costs.

If a responsible person cannot be found or is unable to pay, then the Act relies on government to clean up the highest risk orphan sites and thereby protect human health and the environment.

Proper removal and disposal of contaminated soil can be the difference of thousands of dollars. Having an independent Enviromental Engineer involved during the excavation and testing process will take the conflict of interest out of the job.

Having an “all-in-one” contractor who removes the tank, pumps out content, tests soil, removes soil, and provides all documentation could lead to over excavation, removal of clean material, misrepresented results and other issues.

Removing more than 24-30 tonnes of material without proper documentation and reporting and additional independent testing from a designated testing facility should raise a red flag.

What does my home insurance cover?

The best article I found was written by our company law firm and can be found online or you can Click Here.


The following links will give you more detailed explanations regarding RUST’s from various municipalities and government agencies, as well as, safe disposal sites and Environmental Consultants. Feel free to call us at 604-988-4545 if you have any questions.  We have experience with oil tank removal and will refer you to one of our contractors that are experts in the field.

Ministry of Environment – BC
Click Here

Environment Management Act – Contaminated Sites Regulation – Minimum Numerical Soil Standards for Residential Property
Click Here

Environment Canada
Click Here

BC Ministry of Environment Fact Sheet – Site Remediation
Click Here

District of Oak Bay
Click Here

District of Sanich
Click Here

District of North Vancouver Bylaws
Click Here

District of West Vancouver Bylaws
Click Here

City of Vancouver Bylaws
Click Here

City of Vancouver Fire Permit Application PDF
Click Here

City of Burnaby Bylaws
Click Here

City of New Westminster Bylaws
Click Here

Sumas Remediation
Click Here