What's the cost of an oil leak in your home?

Having an oil leak in your off-grid home can be very costly. Not only will you lose some of your valuable oil, but it can potentially cause thousands of pounds in damage to your property, garden, and neighbouring properties (that you could be liable for). Not to mention the detrimental impact an oil leak will have on the local environment and wildlife, and the health of you, your family, and neighbours. Because of the high cost and impact, you must always be alert to any leaks by regularly checking your tank and equipment and having an oil spill kit readily to hand.

You are responsible for any oil storage on your property, which means if it leaks, the buck stops with you.


What causes an oil leak?

An oil tank can leak if the tank body fails due to a lack of maintenance, fuel theft or old age. Metal tanks can rust through, usually at their bases, while plastic tanks can split. Components like hoses, fuel feed lines, or sight gauges can also cause a leak. Oil spills may also occur during delivery.

While you may be lucky enough to detect an oil leak relatively quickly and take action, if left undetected for a long time oil can silently cause damage to your grounds (killing plants) and the very foundations of your home.


Damage to property and gardens

When oil leaks it sinks into the surrounding ground, causing issues with brickwork, substructures, grass and other plants, and neighbouring properties. It can also contaminate your drinking water supply and flow through drains, sewers, and septic tanks. Removing oil that has soaked into the soil is urgent and expensive. Specialists will need to come and remove contaminated soil to prevent further spread.

If a neighbour is affected by your oil leak, they can ask the local Environmental Health team to investigate for statutory nuisance under the Environment Protection Act 1990. They could also take civil action, as was the case in Dalkey, Ireland where a resident was awarded €54,000 in damages by the High Court as a result of a home heating oil leak from her neighbour’s oil tank.

Even if your oil leak is minimal, it can still soak into materials like wood and carpet, which then has to be disposed of. Potentially, you’ll have to replace your flooring and furniture.


The environmental impact of an oil leak

Leaking oil can also get into underground water courses, nearby rivers and streams, and groundwater drinking supplies. Immediate action is needed to contain the leak, preventing serious pollution of the local environment and wildlife death. If you fail to do so, the local authority might take enforcement action against you under the Environment Protection Act 1990, the Environment Damage Regulations 2009, or the Water Resources Act 1991.


Adverse health effects

Heating oil (usually kerosene) is toxic to inhale and fatal when ingested. If your oil leaks, it can cause your family and anyone exposed to it to become dizzy, drowsy, nauseous, or in pain. It can also cause rashes when spilt onto the skin. An oil leak might make you and your family unwell, or cause health issues with neighbours that they can then take legal action for. One Northern Irish family was awarded £5,500 in damages after a neighbouring oil spill caused them to develop headaches and blocked noses.


Oil leak insurance

It can cost thousands to clean up an oil spill so most homeowners have special insurance that covers the cost of cleaning up their property and neighbouring land. But this isn’t a complete failsafe since insurers may not cover some aspects of a leak clean-up — particularly if the leak has been happening for a long time.


Avoid oil spills entirely

One way to avoid the stress and worry of having an oil spill is to switch to an alternative fuel like LPG (liquid petroleum gas). This is a non-toxic fuel that doesn’t impact soil, water or groundwater. If an LPG leak occurs, remediation involves simply dispersing the gas through ventilating the area and avoiding sources of ignition until it disappears.


To learn more about the benefits of switching to LPG, read our guide now.