Hole made whole

For several weeks, we had this mess in our front yard:

When we had our natural gas fireplace/heater installed, we said goodbye to the hulking oil furnace formerly occupying about 12 precious square feet out of the total 840 in our little house.  We also said goodbye to the underground oil tank in our front yard.  It was hardly noticeable from the surface, but legally we had to decommission it since we weren’t using it anymore.  

Unfortunately, upon removal of the tank, it was discovered that some heating oil had leaked out into the soil.  The contractors had to come back later and dig an even bigger hole to get rid of the soil with the highest level of contamination.  While doing that, the main water line to our house was hit with some piece of digging equipment and dented.  It might not have been a problem, but we insisted it be fixed by a plumber while the ground was still open.  That ended up taking a while to coordinate.  When the plumber finally came, he said he wouldn’t do the work until the contractor filled up the hole most of the way up to where the water line was.  I guess he didn’t want to get in and out of a 6-foot hole.  So the contractors came back again.

They put in some perforated PVC pipes in the bottom of the hole with a vertical PVC pipe sticking up.  Later, they would pump some bioremediation solution into that pipe, I think three different times over the course of about two months.

The yellow pipe you see is our natural gas line.  Fortunately that was not damaged during the digging.  They did know about the water pipe and the natural gas pipe before work began.  Once the PVC pipes were in place, they started filling up the hole with gravel.  And check out how they got the gravel into the hole - by launching it off the end of a conveyor belt from a truck parked on the street.  I took some video of this process.

Gravel launched from conveyor belt into hole from Kelly & Matt on Vimeo.

After that, the plumber came back and fixed the pipe, and later the same day the contractor returned the fill in the top foot or so with clean soil.  Yay!

It still doesn’t look great, I mean it’s a large area of bare dirt in our yard.  But the fact that it is level with the rest of the ground and lacks orange fencing, plastic sheeting, and plywood is such a huge improvement that it looks gorgeous to us.


Heating Oil Tank Removal and Cleanup

On occasion I think to myself, “I would not like to get in a wrestling match with dude X.”  A couple hours after Pat and Matt showed up to remove the oil tank, I thought, “I would not like to get in a shoveling competition with Pat.”  Not to mention, I wrestling with them probably wouldn’t be too much fun either.  And this coming from a guy who loves to dig.  That said, I don’t think I’m ready to make oil tank removal my vocation anytime soon.  

The guys get started by laying out plastic to pile the refuse (dirt/soil) from their dig.  Then after some head scratching about exactly where the tank is and making sure where the gas line is they start digging.  Before I even knew it they had moved my landscaping obstacles.  No fooling around with these guys.  And the digging continued…

oil tank removal, environmental cleanup, garden

Fast forward.  The guys dug like banshees but even they had to submit to the rocky hard pack and get a pneumatic shovel.  They set up a super slick scaffold with a come-along winch (yes Kelly, I’m learning the difference).

Edit: note from Kelly: Matt used to get the words “winch” and “wench” confused, which was pretty entertaining.  Good job, hubby.

oil tank removal, lifting, garden

Fortunately our tank was pretty much empty but clearly they’ve lifted some heavier ones because that beam is seriously and permanently bent.

oil tank removal, garden, pile of dirt

Uh oh.  Plenty of leakage (the black on the underside).  Thank God, wait, and the EPA and WA State Department of Ecology for having a Pollution Liability Insurance program.  We’re on the hook for the removal but that pales in comparison to the cleanup cost and because we were having the tank removed within 30 days of converting to an alternative fuel, the insurance will basically cover the cleanup.

oil tank removal

A different view of the corroded and leaky tank.  It’s not leaky like oil was pouring out but definitely with the pressure of a full tank I can imagine the rates of leakage are non-trivial.

oil tank removal

6 foot man in a 6 foot hole.  Fortunately no bones were found.  Not like we have put much in the way of bones in the yard but ya never know.  Our backyard is a trip because glass practically grows in the soil back there. 

oil tank removal

After they were done removing the tank all the fun paperwork begins.  Fortunately that’s been pretty easy.  They covered the excavation and fenced around it.  I reminded them to cover the dirt pile (which will have to be disposed of—again, it’s not like there’s an oil slick coming out of it but there has definitely been a not-so-sweet aroma of oil in my front yard since the removal).

oil tank removal

Did the guys do a good job?  As far as I can tell.  I did add more plastic because a sheet of old broken plywood was definitely not going to keep water out of the pit.  I just hope they finish the job before we get a lot of rain and matters get complicated.  I did have to terminate my tomatillos early but they were more of an experiment so not too big of a loss.  Fortunately I think all of my plantings that had to be moved are going to survive their untimely uprooting (late summer is not a great time to be moving heat and water stressed plants).