The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is actively working with local government to address a large volume of oil, which was released when many residential heating oil tanks were damaged by Hurricane Isabel.
Presently, representatives of MDE’s Oil Control Program and Emergency Response Division are visiting many waterfront communities to assess and identify those oil releases that threaten your health and/or the environment.
Priority is being focused on tanks leaking oil and any freestanding oil that can be removed. Unfortunately, there is no immediate remedy for fumes and odors or for soil that has been contaminated with oil until after the oil recovery operation has been completed. The oil in areas that is lightly coated and exposed to sunlight and open air has already begun to degrade and additional cleanup efforts may not be necessary.
Question and Answer Summary
Below is a “question and answer” summary that will assist you in contacting the appropriate agency or will give you guidance on how to address an oil related problem.
(1) Who can I call for an oil-related problem?
- MDE’s 24-hour emergency number at 1-866-633-4686;
- MDE’s Oil Control Program at 410-537-3442 or (toll free within Maryland) 1-800-631-6101, ext. 3442;
- Local government environmental health unit;
- Your oil supplier; and/or
- Your insurance company.
(2) What can MDE do for me at this time?
For leaking tanks, tanks not leaking but containing liquid and not connected to a home, tanks that pose an imminent threat of falling over, or free-standing oil: MDE will coordinate pumping the oil/oily liquid. However, all tanks will remain where they are located when pumping has been completed.
(3) What can’t MDE do for me at this time?
- Eliminate oil odors and fumes;
- Remove empty oil tanks; and/or
- Address oil saturated soils or other oily debris on your property.
(4) I have one or more oil tanks on my property that do not belong to me. What can I do?
- Call MDE or local government so the tank can be checked. If containing liquid, the tank will be pumped out.
- Contact local government to determine if they can remove the tank(s) for recycling.
(5) I own an oil tank that fell over during the storm. What can I do?
- Call MDE or local government so the tank can be assessed; or
- Call your oil supplier to determine what the best course of action is to have oil service
re-established for your home. (We strongly suggest removing the old tank and installing a new tank designed and installed specifically for flood prone areas.)
(6) I own an oil tank that is located in my basement and the basement is full of water.
What can I do?
- If oil has not leaked from the tank and the tank is not in imminent danger of falling over, make sure the house electric is off, remove the water from your basement, and call your oil supplier.
- If oil has leaked from the tank and there is oil floating on the water, make sure the house electric is off. Call MDE to have the oil removed. You will be responsible for pumping out the remaining water and calling your oil supplier.
- If oil has leaked from the tank and there is an oil sheen (rainbow) but no oil is floating
on the water, make sure the house electric is off. Pump out the water and call your oil
- If there is no longer any water in your basement but the tank is in imminent danger of falling over, notify MDE to have the oil removed.
(7) My oil tank is gone. What can I do?
- It may be difficult to identify which tank belongs to you.
- Call your oil supplier to determine what the best course of action is to have oil service re-established for your home.
(8) There is oil-saturated debris on my property. What can I do?
- For small amounts of debris, place in double plastic trash bag(s) for pickup by your county’s trash service company.
- For larger debris, contact your local government public works department.
(9) My yard is contaminated with oil. What can I do?
- Private spill contractors are available to remove and properly dispose of oil-contaminated soil. Call MDE to obtain a list of contractors.
- If your county’s solid waste facility (landfill) accepts oil-contaminated soil, it may be possible to utilize landscape companies or local contractors to remove the soil.
- It is possible, if you are willing to do the work, to process and treat mildly contaminated soil on your property by a method known as land farming. This is not an easy task; the process will take an extended period of time. If you are interested in this method, please contact MDE and a fact sheet can be provided
(10) I am worried that my drinking water is contaminated. What can I do?
- If you are on a public water system, contact your local government environmental health unit to determine if that system is experiencing problems.
- If you have a private well system and the top of your well was not covered by floodwaters, contact your local government environmental health unit to determine if water samples should be collected and analyzed and who is responsible for associated costs.
- If you have a private well system and the top of your well was covered by floodwaters or the water in your house is discolored or has odors, contact your local environmental health unit so that arrangements can be made to disinfect your well and sample. MDE has information on disinfecting your household drinking water system. (See Related Press Release.)
(11) There are oil odors in my home. What can I do?
- Remove as much oil saturated materials from your house as possible;
- Aerate your home by keeping as many windows and doors open as possible for an extended period of time;
- Some household products have been found to be effective in reducing odors – these include Dawn dishwashing liquid, Simple Green, and white vinegar. Use these products individually in water as hot as you can handle. You may want to consider adding a 4-ounce bottle of vanilla extract. Once the products have been applied, you should use fresh rinse water to remove the solution. This process may need to be repeated several times if the oil odors persist.
- Some commercial products are also available which can break down and/or mask oil odors. Check with your oil supplier. One product commonly used is “Odor Gone.” There are also boat bilge cleaners that may be effective. These types of products are spread on the stained areas and allowed to remain for several days. Make sure you follow the application directions on these products. A homemade powder can also be made from 10 parts Tide laundry detergent (powder) and 1 part baking soda.
- Using these products or methods does not produce instantaneous results and, in fact, may require weeks or months to accomplish.
- In worst-case scenarios, it may be necessary to remove all building materials that came in contact with the oil.