How To Know If Oil Has Contaminated The Environment

Thursday 28th March 2024

Joanna Grimbley-Smith

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Heating oil tank outside CONTENTS

When heating oil spills into the environment, such as onto soil or into a body of water, it can have devastating effects. This includes destroying habitats, killing wildlife, and leaving behind lasting pollution. A quick, effective response is critical to minimise the damage it can have and restore the area to its previous, safe state. 

Here at ICE Cleaning, we offer rapid-response oil spill cleaning services nationwide. Our specialist technicians have many years of experience cleaning up a wide range of oils including kerosene, diesel, gasoline, and hydraulic oil. In an emergency, they can be on site within several hours.

Keep reading to learn how to know if kerosene has spread into the environment and how to clean up a kerosene spill. 

The signs of a heating oil spill

Unusual odours around your property

A distinct smell like diesel or petroleum in or around your home often signifies a kerosene spill. This odour may be more noticeable near your heating system or outside where the storage tank is located.

Oil stains on soil or pavement

If you see unusual stains on the ground that appear slick, dark, and have an oily texture, it might indicate that kerosene has leaked into the area. These stains are usually found close to where the oil tank is situated.

Dying vegetation

Kerosene spills on grass can severely affect plant life in your garden or yard. If plants suddenly begin dying without any apparent reason, it could be due to soil contamination from an oil leak.

Variations in fuel levels unexpectedly

An unexplained drop in fuel levels within your tank could suggest a leak somewhere in the system. Regular monitoring of fuel levels can help detect this anomaly early on.

As soon as you identify any of these signs, you need to investigate whether the cause is a leak so you can take prompt action. You can learn more about the different signs of heating oil spills here

The effects of an environmental spill

When a heating oil spill occurs, it can have significant adverse effects on the environment. 

One immediate consequence of an oil spill is soil contamination. Kerosene and other types of heating oils are hydrocarbons that can quickly seep into the ground, altering its composition and harming its ability to support plant life. This not only affects the aesthetic value of your property but also disrupts local ecosystems by hindering plants' growth and affecting organisms living in the soil.

If left unaddressed, spilled oil can find its way into nearby streams, rivers, or groundwater sources through runoff or percolation through the soil. This will lead to water pollution and can coat aquatic animals in oil which may interfere with their respiration or ingestion processes. Moreover, contaminated water used for irrigation will spread the pollutants and affect more of the environment.

The volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released from spilled kerosene can even lead to air quality deterioration over time, too. These emissions are harmful when inhaled by humans and animals alike, potentially causing respiratory issues among other health concerns.

Beyond environmental damage, kerosene spills pose direct risks to human health, as well. Exposure can cause skin problems, headaches, and drowsiness, and result in muscle control, lung, and heart problems.

What to do when oil spills

  1. Contact an emergency response oil spill cleaning company - like ICE Cleaning - who will contain the spill and carry out an assessment of the spill site
  2. If the kerosene spilled on soil or into a body of water, contact the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60
  3. Then, contact your insurance company to notify them that a spill has occurred 

Unless you are a trained oil spill clean up professional with environmental spill experience, do not try to clean the spill yourself. You will put your health at risk, may use harmful detergents that can pollute the environment further, and could cause the oil to spread such as allowing it to sink deeper into soil or washing it down a drain. 

Cleaning up an oil spill requires specialised knowledge and equipment to ensure all the oil is removed from the site thoroughly and disposed of correctly, too. Professionals know how to efficiently and safely clean up a spill while minimising environmental damage. You can learn more about how to clean a kerosene spill in this blog

How to prevent heating oil spills

Carry out routine inspections and maintenance of your tank

Regularly inspect your oil tank for signs of wear, corrosion, or damage. Ensuring that all fittings are tight and in good condition can prevent leaks. It is recommended you have a professional check your heating oil tank annually.

Install secondary containment systems

A secondary containment system, like a bund, provides an additional layer of protection by catching any oil that may leak from the primary tank. This measure is particularly important for older tanks where there is a higher risk of failure.

Purchase a high-quality tank

Investing in durable tanks with strong resistance against corrosion can significantly decrease the likelihood of spills. Look for tanks that meet local regulatory standards and come with warranties.

Educate yourself on safe filling practices

Become familiar with safe filling practices to avoid overfilling your tank during delivery. Ensure there is clear access to the fill pipe and consider installing an overfill alarm as an added precaution.

Maintain clear communication with your delivery company

Inform them about any changes in your setup they need to be aware of before delivering oil. You can learn more about oil spills during fuel deliveries in this blog

Contact us today

We operate nationwide, 24/7, 365 days a year, including bank holidays. Our fully qualified technicians can tackle any kind of spill, no matter the size of the spill nor where the oil has spilled. 

Get in touch with our team on 0208 066 0360 to find out how we can help you. You can learn more about our kerosene spill cleaning services here. 

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