Contaminated sites are located in every province and territory across Canada. They are found on public and private property.
A contaminated site has substances that pose or potentially pose an immediate or long-term risk to human health or the environment. Environment Canada outlines some of the common substances causing contamination include petroleum and its byproducts, heavy metals such as polychlorinated biphenals (PCBs), solvents, wood preservatives, and pesticides.
National defence initiatives and industrial production have resulted in the majority of medium- and large-sized contaminated sites.
The amount of contamination from residential oil tanks leaks is substantial when the volume is multiplied by the number of leaks, reported to be in the thousands across the country.
Contamination from residential heating oil tanks can impact health through vapour inhalation and skin exposure. It also can be a costly venture for the environment and the landowner. Oil spills can pollute ground water and destroy habitat. The cost of remediation can be thousands of dollars.
A full bathtub of heating oil (about 60 litres) could contaminate more than one million litres of water and cost in the thousands or hundred of thousands to clean up, depending on factors such as if the contamination is in soil or water and the slope and soil type.
Most homes have an indoor tank or an outside tank. There are also underground tanks that are buried.
Spills can come from leaky tanks and pipes or from filling. Leaky tanks and pipes might be a result of corrosion and mechanical failures. For example, ice following on an outdoor tank line can result in damage.
It is important to inspect your tank regularly. Look for stains and drips and locate smells. Check for corrosion breakage and any potential hazards such as snow and ice if you have an outside tank.
Some organizations suggest replacement of your fuel tank from anywhere between 10 to 20 years, depending on its condition.
Any type of spill needs to be responded to immediately. If a spill is more than 100 litres, it must be reported by law to the Nova Scotia Department of Environment or call Environmental Emergencies at 1-800-565-1633.
The province has online and print resource such as the Homeowners Guide to Heating Oil Tank Systems and Domestic Fuel Oil Spill Fact Sheet for Homeowners that provide more details on tank installation, removal, and small spill clean-up .
Visit http://www.gov.ns.ca/nse/contaminatedsites/domestic.asp for details.