West Vancouver Fire Department is getting out of the business of regulating oil tanks this year. At a recent council meeting, the fire department informed the council that local residents who have an oil tank under their home won’t need a permit from the fire department to remove the tank.
Removing an oil tank has historically required a fire permit from the fire department, but that bylaw will now be removed.
“The current $300 oil tank requirement fees charged to property owners has been removed. Consultation has taken place with our planning and permit department and the municipality is under no obligation to manage oil tan. It’s on the property owners to do that under the provincial jurisdiction,” the fire chief told the council at a council meeting on December 4.
“Fire departments have historically managed the regulation of oil tanks at a municipal level because provincial legislation of these sites is found in the BC Fire Code. Over time, underground oil tanks have become less common because many have been removed over the years. Also over time, environmental regulations have become more comprehensive and sophisticated.
Oil tank removal and site remediation is best done by an environmental specialist, and fire departments do not possess this expertise,” said West Vancouver spokesperson Donna Powers. She said it’s more appropriate for home owners to manage their own property in accordance with provincial regulations, with the help of environmental specialists.
Many West Vancouver homes built between 1920s and 1960s had fuel storage tanks buried close to foundations and district records indicate more than 1,000 West Vancouver properties still have buried fuel tanks. Many home owners, however, may not know they have an oil tank under their home.
The district suggests home owners who do have an oil tank should hire a qualified environmental consultant or an engineer to work along a professional oil tank contractor. Once the tank is removed, the environmental consultant will take oil samples to ensure it’s not contaminated.
“Underground fuel tanks present significant potential for environmental contamination. If a tank on your property leaks oil, you could be liable for damages. A fuel tank on your property can also complicate real estate transactions and may restrict your insurance coverage,” says the district.
Here are some signs of a fuel tank: a filler pipe protruding from the ground, a vent pipe at the side of your house, a metal pipe cap close to your front or back yard, a sunken area on your lawn. Underground fuel tanks present significant potential for environmental contamination.
If a tank on your property leaks oil, you could be liable for damages. A fuel tank on your property can also complicate real estate transactions and may restrict your insurance coverage. Provincial law requires that you, your contractor and/or the professional engineer report certain petroleum releases, or threats of release, to the local fire department (West Vancouver Fire & Rescue) and the BC Ministry of Environment (depending on the nature and volume of the release, as well as contamination levels).