What is the Department’s Fuel Tank Risk Assessment Program?

In 2014, the Ocean City Fire Department Fire Marshal’s Office began an extensive effort to locate and document petroleum fuel storage locations throughout the Fire Department’s service area, both in Ocean City and surrounding West Ocean City. The initiative, which was partially funded by the United States Department of Transportation’s Hazardous Materials Emergency Planning (HMEP) grant, provides the Department’s Hazardous Materials Response Team, as well as its federal, state, and local pollution response partners, vital information in planning for and mitigating potential petroleum fuel spills.

The location information gives first responders pertinent fuel tank location information for post-storm events, aiding damage teams in locating and assessing potentially damaged or displaced tanks, in an effort to minimize the impact to neighboring properties, waterways, and the overall environment should a release have occurred. In post-storm scenarios with large fields of debris, the tank location information will also increase the safety of first responders who may be working on cleanup operations near buried, potentially damaged, tanks.

How Can I Help?

As part of the effort to maintain up-to-date tank location information, the Fire Department is asking for the public’s help in voluntarily providing the following information on in-use tanks in the area, which may then be field-verified by a member of the Department’s HazMat Team:

**The office is not interested in ownership or fuel service provider information.

Fuel Tank Risk

What Can I Do To Minimize the Potential for A Release?

Many fuel storage tanks in and around the Ocean City area may be buried below-ground. Since they may be affected by the corrosive nature of local soil and can’t be visually inspected easily, leaks in below ground tanks are harder to prevent. The following recommendations may be followed to help a homeowner/business owner be alert to signs of leaks:

  1. Are you using more fuel than normal? Significantly higher monthly or quarterly fuel usage (compared to previous years) may be signs that your tank is leaking. Often, fuel delivery services can provide you with fuel usage tracking to make this process easier.
  2. Does the fuel level change when the heating equipment is not in use? During the summer months, when your furnace or other equipment is not operational, you can utilize a dip stick to measure your fuel level, marking it accurately for depth of fuel. Measuring it a month later will give you a good indication of potential leaks: if the level has dropped, you may have a leak. If the level is higher (without a delivery), your underground tank may be taking in groundwater.
  3. Is there water in the tank? To check, obtain water-reactive paste from your heating oil distributor, and place a small amount on a dip-stick and test the fuel in the tank. While most tanks may contain a minor amount (1/4”) of water due to condensation, more than that may be an indication of a leak, allowing ground water to get in.
  4. Does your crawl space, yard, or other area contain a consistent odor of fuel, long after a refill?

Inspection and leak prevention of above-ground tanks is significantly easier than buried, below-ground tanks, although these tanks are more prone to mechanical damage. Regular, brief inspections of the fuel tank, fill pipes, and supply lines can help to prevent potential spills. A few things to look for during your inspection:

  1. Are tank legs and foundation stable?
  2. Is the tank properly anchored to avoid becoming dislodged in flood/high wind situations?
  3. Is the tank surface free of rust, weeps, or excessive denting?
  4. Is the area around the filter and valves free of drips or signs of leakage?
  5. Is the tank and lines protected from falling snow, ice, and other mechanical damage?
  6. Is the tank vent unclogged and free of ice, snow, corrosion, or insect nests?
  7. Is the tank vent of sufficient height to avoid flood-water intrusion?
  8. Are the areas around the fill pipe and vent pipe free of signs of spills?

What Should I Do If I Suspect A Release?
If you identify potential issues with tank during an inspection (with no active leak), contact your fuel service provider to schedule an inspection and/or repair.

In Ocean City and West Ocean City, should you believe that you have an active fuel leak, or observe petroleum sheens on nearby bodies of water, you are asked to immediately contact Ocean City Emergency Communications at 410-723-6602. Dispatchers there will gather pertinent information and notify the proper response agencies, depending upon the size and location of the leak.