Dealing with heating oil leaks or spills

How to deal with small scale oil spills, such as kerosene and diesel from domestic heating oil tanks.

How to identify a leak

There are several warning signs that you may have an oil leak, including:

  • a strong smell of solvent, petrol or oil inside or outside your home or in your cupboards
  • black stains and dead plants or grass around your tank
  • a sudden increase in the amount of fuel you use

Deal with it immediately

You should:

  • try to find out where the leak is coming from
  • switch off your oil supply at the tank and arrange to have it emptied (if needed)
  • arrange for an engineer to repair or replace your tank or pipework
  • prevent the spill from entering drains by blocking its flow using earth, sand or commercial products that absorb oil
  • keep your home well-ventilated by opening windows and doors

Who to call

You should call your household insurance company or landlord and make them aware of the leak.

What to avoid

Do not:

  • wash any spilt oil away into drains, a gully or into the ground (oil can cause serious pollution of rivers, streams and groundwater)
  • use detergents or a hose to wash the spill away
  • put off taking action or assume the problem will go away

Reporting an oil leak

On roads or pavements

In ponds, rivers or lakes

Call the Environment Agency straightaway on their free 24 hr incident hotline 0800 80 70 60.

How to prevent oil leaks

Pollution incidents are usually caused by faulty or badly maintained domestic central heating oil tanks.

There are several things you can do to prevent an oil leak in your home, such as:

  • checking the condition of your tank and boiler regularly
  • watching out for black stains
  • keeping a check on how much oil you use
  • getting your heating system serviced regularly
  • ensuring that your tank is not overfilled
  • keeping the filling cap on your tank clear

You should also review your home insurance policy to make sure you're covered for oil leaks or spills.

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