Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) Ontario’ new regulations for heating oil storage tanks to counter oil spills

This article is a follow-up to our February 2002 edition for Ontario residents, which discussed the dangers of leaking fuel oil tanks, how to avoid problems and how to handle spills and leaks.

Unprotected and neglected storage tanks can potentially ruin a life-long investment. More than one million Canadian homes are heated with oil and over the past few years, there have been a startling number of tank failures – and the trend will grow as traditional steel storage tanks continue to corrode.

Due to condensation, water and sludge accumulating at the bottom, the majority of steel fuel oil tanks rust from the inside out. This damage is not immediately apparent and often presents itself as a catastrophic tank failure. Leaks can also be due to improper maintenance, damp locations and physical damage. Fuel oil leaks have raised insurance claims by 50% over the past few years, with clean-ups often costing more than the property was worth.

New Regulations

The Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) in Ontario has instituted new regulations for heating oil storage tanks to counter oil spills. The rules would require that only licensed installers install and regularly inspection tanks. Tanks would have to be tagged and registered and oil deliveries be made only to tanks that have the registration tag. Therefore, the responsibility for tank maintenance has been divided among the owner, the installer and the oil company.

Insurance Rebates

Insurance companies and governments have recognized that without immediate attention to the problem, leak incidences from residential fuel oil tanks will increase and costs for clean-up will skyrocket. Several insurance companies are now offering refunds to their clients to encourage them to replace their furnace and storage tank systems. Manufacturers are also offering rebates to customers for furnace and tank replacements.

Better Fuel Oil Tanks

Manufacturers of storage tanks have improved their products and warranties. Several new tank products have been marketed during the last few years. Steel tanks have gone to a heavier gauge to mitigate the effect of corrosion and perhaps increase their lifespan. New technologies for non-metallic tanks have emerged so that internal corrosion ceases to be an issue. Glass fiber tanks, in single wall and double wall versions, and the polyethylene tank, secondarily contained in a galvanized steel container, are two examples of new designs which are both proven, tested and ULC listed for the storage of fuel oil.

FICTION: An oil spill won’t cost any more than the deductible amount of a homeowner’s insurance.

FACT: Some insurance policies specifically exclude pollution coverage for leaks or spills from residential heating oil tanks. Homeowners should contact their insurance broker, and review their policy to confirm whether they have pollution coverage, and whether there are any limitations to their coverage.

FICTION: If an oil tank has handles, it’s less than 20 years old.

FACT: The presence or absence of handles is not an accurate indication of age. Only the serial number on the tank ID plate, or a valid date stamp would provide a reliable indication of age.

FICTION: The government says now, that oil tanks have to be changed every 12 years.

FACT: An existing above ground fuel-oil tank is considered approved provided the tank was installed in accordance with the code at the time of installation. As long as the tank is not leaking, there is no age at which the government demands the tank must be replaced.

FICTION: All underground tanks have to be removed immediately.

FACT: New regulations require that all underground tanks to be registered with the Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) by May 1, 2002 or fuel oil will not be delivered to the tank. Underground tanks that are 25 years and older, or of an unknown age, and not specially protected from corrosion are required to be removed by October 1, 2006.

FICTION: If a tank has been inspected, there won’t be any trouble getting insurance.

FACT: Insurance companies often reject new applications for coverage of homes with tanks over “X” years of age. Twenty years of age seems to be the most common denominator. Many insurance companies will not provide coverage for underground tanks under any circumstances

FICTION: Oil heating is smelly and expensive.

FACT: Oil furnaces, hot water tanks and storage tanks need not exhibit any odors when properly installed and maintained. Oil heating is a cost-effective alternative to natural gas.


Homeowners are required to annually maintain their fuel oil appliances (boilers, furnaces, water heaters, etc.) by having a TSSA certified Oil Burner Technician service and clean the appliance.

Homeowners are required to have their fuel oil appliance installations safety inspected by their fuel oil supplier.

Fuel oil suppliers that find unsafe equipment are required to stop the delivery of fuel oil until the equipment is fixed.

The Technical Standards and Safety Authority (TSSA) is an independent, not-for-profit organization responsible for the delivery of a range of safety services. This includes the administration of Ontario’s Technical Standards & Safety Act, 2000 within various industry sectors and the delivery of safety programs to the public.


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