Beware the Tank Contractor

Underground Storage Tanks (USTs) have been a thorn in the side of home owners for quite a while. Nearly 75% of them are leaking; and cleanup costs can climb very quickly often leaving the unsuspecting home owner with bills in excess of $10,000.00. The last thing you need is an unscrupulous contractor! The following points are offered to help you make a sound decision when it comes to getting your tank removed:

  1. Visit the New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection’s (NJDEP’s) website at There’s a wealth of knowledge to be had; and call them if you have questions. They’re there to help; although they cannot recommend contractors.
  2. All contractors must be licensed by the NJDEP to perform this work.
  3. Contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB) after you have selected a few local contractors to provide proposals. Get their ratings and ask about their history.
  4. Obtain the following paperwork before selecting the tank removal contractor:
  • Recent and local references. Call them and visit their properties if they’re local. Review the
    paperwork left by the contractor after their jobs.
  • Certifications for the tank contractor (Both UST Closure and Subsurface Evaluator licenses)
  • A written proposal for the REMOVAL of the tank including Remedial costs, in case the UST is a leaker. Make sure the contract you sign only addresses the tank’s removal and site restoration, not remediation.

If the cost for the removal of your UST is less than the cost for an excavator and an operator for one (1) day, chose another contractor. Remember: the tank contractor needs to get a municipal permit, bring a backhoe or an excavator, a huge truck and trailer, dig up the tank, cut it open, clean it out (with a worker inside with a suit and a mask), remove it from the ground, wait for a municipal inspection, transport the clean tank to a scrap yard, backfill the excavation with certified clean fill material and restore the surface as well as agreed. If the cost for all this work is less than the total of the associated costs on the contractor’s fee schedule, he or she is losing money removing your tank! Why would they do that? That doesn’t make good business sense! They’ll get that money back once it’s a leaker! That’s how they do it; and they have a 75% chance of success! You get what you pay for! Remember, you only signed a REMOVAL proposal. If your tank is found to be a leaker, you do not have to use the tank removal contractor to perform the cleanup. If you decide to change contractors, DO NOT PAY the removal contractor until he or she provides the following information:

  • Municipal/Building Permit Information
  • Liquid Waste Disposal Documentation
  • Tank Recycling/Disposal Documentation
  • Stone Backfill and/or Clean Soil Certification & Weight Tickets(s)
  • Laboratory Results & QA/QC Documentation, if available
  • Photographs

If your tank is found to have leaked, cleanup must be performed by a firm licensed be the NJDEP for Subsurface Evaluation; and this brings forth a host of additional tasks that can, indeed, get expensive. A number of tasks have to be performed in order to obtain a No Further Action letter (the NFA) from the NJDEP. If the excavation of a leaking UST encounters groundwater, this, too, must be investigated. If you have any questions about tanks or cleanup, please contact Andrew W. Robinson at Groundwork, Inc.