The Impacts of Oil/Kerosene Loss at your Premises

The Impacts of Oil/Kerosene Loss at your Premises

The Beast from the East may have retreated some time now but the consequences of its visit linger for many. From damage to property, loss of farm animals and impact to drinking water supplies the public, County Councils and insurance companies have a lot to deal with.

Perhaps the most significant drinking water incident occurred in Fethard in Tipperary where a water treatment plant was contaminated and impacted heavily  by a loss of kerosene oil to the Anner River. A Do Not Drink Notice was quickly put in place – the Irish Water website ( should be consulted for updates on this notice.

Kerosene use and storage is an issue for many homeowners. The majority of homes in rural Ireland (40% nationally), which do not have access to the gas mains, are heated by oil fired boiler units. Most people will be familiar with the green oil tanks, normally located on dwarf walls to the rear of the dwelling, which are used to store oil.

A loss of kerosene at a dwelling can be considered an accident in its truest sense. The impacts of the lost oil will, however, be indiscriminate! They can vary greatly with site characteristics, but the final extent of the resulting contamination will be down to luck.

Important: There is no way of predicting when or where a loss of oil will occur.

Ruptures to the oil tank, filter, oil line (copper or flexible rubber) or leaks from the burner unit or at the fire valve are all potential points of loss. This means that an oil leak can occur outside or inside the dwelling with internal leaks causing more inconvenience to the homeowner.

Oil loss can result in impact to soils, groundwater, surface waters, the dwelling structure, and neighbouring properties. Oil can impact on the integrity of water pipes and industry best practice is to replace all sections of water pipe which pass though impacted areas to at least 1m each side of the affected area. Oil lost inside the dwelling can impact the dwelling structure and lead to internal vapours and impact to internal fixtures and fittings.

When a loss of oil occurs the first port of call for the homeowner is their insurers. The insurance companies generally do not pay for repairing / replacing the cause of the oil loss but will cover the costs of the damage caused by the oil which has been lost. Neighbouring or third-party properties are normally covered under the contents cover of the insurance policy. Policy cover will vary between insurance companies and each policy should be reviewed in its’ own right.

Procedure with dealing with an oil spill. 

Desktop Survey and Initial Site Investigation – An Initial Report will be issued detailing the findings of the site investigation works, risk assessment, conceptual site model and appraisal of remedial options. A Remedial Scope of Works will accompany the Initial Report.

Remediation and Validation Works – A contractor will carry out the remedial works as per the Remedial Scope of Works and the environmental consultant will validate the works to confirm that there is no future risk posed by the contamination incident.

Final Report – A Final Report will then be issued to detail the remedial works and the validation of the remedial works illustrating how the risks identified during the site investigation works have been mitigated.

This can be a long process which will impact on the day to day life of the homeowner.

How to reduce the chance of an oil/kerosene spill?
  • Regular servicing of the boiler unit by an engineer registered with Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC).
  • Regular inspection of the oil tank – Oil tanks generally have a lifespan of 15 years If your oil tanks is older you should consider replacing it.
  • Check the bases of the oil tank and boiler unit for cracking and subsidence.
  • Check for vegetation dieback at the oil tank, boiler unit and aboveground sections of oil line.
  • Installation of inspection chambers around joints in the oil line.
  • Installation of new oil tanks and boiler unit in accordance with OFTEC Guidelines – OFTEC Guidelines provide industry best practice for the installation of oil tanks, oil lines and oil fired boiler units.
For further information on how ORS can help you contact:

Alan Kiernan:

Associate, Senior Environmental Consultant, ORS

Alan Kiernan leads our Environmental Team. He has worked in both the public and private sectors, gaining experience in wastewater treatment, waste management and environmental licensing, policy and regulation. Alan has also worked in contaminated land consultancy managing projects in both Ireland and the UK. Alan applies his specialist knowledge, skills and techniques to bring a wide variety of projects to successful conclusions.

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