Baltimore County News
Is Your Oil Tank Leaking?
If you have a furnace that runs on oil, you are likely all too familiar with the regular deliveries of fuel oil to your house during the winter months.
The fuel oil itself is expensive enough, but did you know that your fuel oil tank may be a ticking time bomb just waiting to fail and potentially cost you thousands in repairs and environmental clean-up costs?
Prior to the 1980’s most fuel oil tanks for residential use were 550 to 1,000 gallon metal tanks that were typically buried just outside the house foundation. Over time these tanks corrode and develop holes that allow the fuel to leak into the ground. Every year, my office oversees between 100 and 150 residential fuel oil tank removals in Baltimore County, and we find that about 25 percent of the underground fuel storage tanks (USTs) removed were found to be leaking into the surrounding soils and groundwater.
MDE Monitoring Fuel Removal
One of these leaking USTs was recently discovered in the Towson area, causing the homeowner quite a mess to say the least. In this case, the fuel oil leaked around the house foundation and into the French drain and sump, contaminating the soil and groundwater and causing odors in the basement. Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE), who oversees all fuel spill clean-ups, ordered the tank and contaminated soils to be removed by a licensed tank removal contractor and is still monitoring the removal of fuel from the groundwater and French drain system—which may take months to completely clean-up.
The cost of the clean-up can often be tens of thousands of dollars, and most hazard insurance policies don’t cover this type of incident. However, there is an oil remediation reimbursement program within MDE to help homeowners with remediation costs up to $20,000.
If a property is for sale and has a UST, many mortgage companies will not allow the sale to go through unless the UST is removed, and the property cleaned-up, if necessary. Our office (and in some cases MDE) will provide documentation of the removal and clean-up efforts that the bank will want to see.
Avoid Costly Assumptions
Don’t assume that just because you haven’t noticed a loss of fuel that cannot be explained through normal usage that your tank is not leaking. Small holes in the tank can allow leakage to occur over months and years that is very difficult to detect even with regular tank gauging.
The moral of this story for fuel oil users is:
- Know where your fuel oil tank is located.
- If the tank is buried, make plans to have it removed as soon as possible and replaced with an above ground tank—don’t wait until you notice a problem. Our office has a list of qualified tank removal contractors. A permit is required to remove the tank.
- If the tank is above ground or in your basement, conduct periodic inspections to make sure that there is no leakage from the tank or the supply lines. If there are visible leaks, call your fuel supply company immediately to get the leak corrected.
For more information you can call the Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability at 410-887-2762.
Manager Ground Water Management
Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability
Great Deals on Native Trees!
Homeowners can get great deals through the Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability’s11th bi-annual Big Trees Sale. The sale is designed to encourage people to help increase the County’s tree canopy by planting in residential areas.
“Big native trees are very beneficial – they beautify your yard and neighborhood, their shade can reduce your energy costs, their roots help keep stormwater from running off into our waterways and their leaves help clean carbon from the atmosphere,” said County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.
Each spring and fall, the Big Trees Sale features a selection of native trees supplied by Baltimore County’s reforestation nursery. Big Trees are Maryland native species such as oaks and maples that grow taller and cast shade over a wider area than smaller trees such as dogwoods and flowering cherries. They need room to grow and take longer to mature, but they provide greater and longer-lasting benefits to homeowners when properly sited. Big Trees species generally outperform smaller ornamental tree species in terms of environmental benefits, with their greater ability to soak up excess rainwater, save energy through shading, remove atmospheric carbon, and add to property values.
Dates and Locations
To date, more than 650 citizens have planted nearly 3,300 big trees purchased though this program. This year’s sale will take place at the Baltimore County EPS Reforestation Nursery, located at 7131 Brinkmans Road, Middle River, Maryland 21220, on the following dates:
- Friday, September 25, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Thursday, October 1, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Friday, October 2, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Saturday, October 10, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Please note that only cash or checks can be accepted as forms of payment.
Eleven different species are offered for the fall sale. Depending on the species, trees are anywhere from four to eight feet tall and are offered for $20 to $30 each. The Big Trees website (www.baltimorecountymd.gov/bigtrees) has pictures and descriptions of each species to help residents find the right tree for their property. EPS is also offering tree shelter kits to better protect the trees from deer browsing and buck rubbing.
The fall offering is limited to 240 trees this year. EPS encourages people to order trees as soon as possible before species sell out. Non-County residents can buy trees that were not pre-ordered at the October 10 sale, not to exceed two trees per customer. Trees must be ordered online using the online order form at www.baltimorecountymd.gov/bigtrees
Species Offered for the Fall Sale
- Black Oak
- Chestnut Oak
- Pin Oak
- Pitch Pine
- Red Oak
- River Birch
- Scarlet Oak
- Sugar Maple
- Swamp White Oak
- White Oak
- White Pine
Any questions about the Big Trees sale may be emailed to EPS at firstname.lastname@example.org
Watershed Includes Perry Hall, Towson, Carney Areas
Baltimore County’s Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability (EPS) is encouraging participation from communities within urban areas of the Lower Gunpowder Falls watershed at an upcoming public meeting on October 14. The urban portions of the Lower Gunpowder Falls watershed include parts of Perry Hall, Carney, and Towson neighborhoods.
This is the second and final public meeting regarding the creation of the Lower Gunpowder Falls Small Watershed Action Plan (SWAP). The meeting offers a chance for interested people and organizations to learn about the project methods, results, and how to get involved. Once finalized, a committee will take responsibility for implementing the recommendations of the SWAP report.
The community meeting will take place at the lower level meeting room of the Loch Raven Branch Library (1046 Taylor Avenue in Towson) on Wednesday, October 14, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. It is free and open to the public.
For more information on Baltimore County’s Small Watershed Action Plans (SWAPs), please call Wesley Schmidt at 410-887-5683 or visit www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/environment/watersheds/swap.html.
Importance of Public Participation
EPS representatives stress the importance of public participation in taking actions to improve stream and river health through the SWAP. “Our team has created a thorough assessment of our watershed’s current status, as well as a comprehensive look at the potential restoration projects that may help improve water quality in the area,” said Director of Environmental Protection and Sustainability, Vince Gardina. “This meeting is the best opportunity to discuss the results of this assessment prior to the closing of the public comment period this fall, and for people to find out how to get involved in implementing the plan to improve our shared environment.”
Background on Small Watershed Action Plans in Maryland
In the late 1990s, national stormwater permits required major counties in Maryland to reduce pollution from roads and neighborhoods that drain to local streams. Counties created monitoring programs and prepared watershed plans to identify projects and programs that could reduce pollution from these non-point sources. Many projects were completed and reductions tallied in annual reports.
Despite significant progress, additional reductions are needed to have clean waterways that meet water quality standards. To reach these additional reductions, Baltimore County is developing Small Watershed Action Plans (SWAPs) to focus on communities as a smaller group and to identify specific solutions that are tailored to local areas. They are implemented by Baltimore County in conjunction with citizen groups to help create and maintain healthy watersheds.
The Baltimore County Department of Environmental Protection and Sustainability is responsible for the protection of the environment and the improvement of the quality of life for the citizens of Baltimore County. This is accomplished through programs that manage and enhance natural and man-made resources, and that provide environmental guidelines to our constituents.