Oil heat mishaps

On the way home from dinner with friends tonight, I heard on the radio (KYW in Philadelphia) that an heating oil company accidentally delivered heating oil to a home that had converted from oil to gas heating. As a result, the oil flooded the basement of this home. The home's occupants were not there at the time. The news story said another company made the same mistake a few weeks ago.
This got me wondering about something. I might be wrong, but I seem to remember that when my parents converted their oil heating to gas, they had the plumber weld the gas pipe shut on the outside end so no one could take the cap off and make the same mistake. My parents were also concerned that pranksters could not pour anything down the pipe into the basement. This took the plumber only a few minutes to do and I assumed everyone who got rid of oil heating did the same thing, but apparently not. My parents' gas heater conversion was done by a close family friend so maybe their got special treatment, but I am curious why all people do not have the cap welded shut on their oil pipe or just remove the pipe entirely.
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Shawn Hearn wrote:

Articles: It Happened Again WPVI-TV http://abclocal.go.com/wpvi/news/12122004_nw_oildelivery.html
Oil Delivered To Wrong House KYW http://kyw.com/Local%20News/local_story_346205742.html
Another similar story, from central/north New Jersey Thanks to a flood of oil, family won't be 'home for holidays' Newark Star-Ledger http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-7/1101362182258470.xml
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Greetings,
My neighbors had oil delivered to them even though they have gas heat. Apparently the Chestnut Street gang had written Chestnut Street on the side of a house on our street. The oil delivery man assumed he was on Chestnut, but wasn't.
I thought it was good for a (sad) laugh.
William

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IMO, that fault lies with the people that installed the gas equipment. The should have removed the oil fill when the pulled the tank.

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Oil in a basement would make a house uninhabitlble for perhaps months of repeated cleanings. I saw a 100 ft yacht on vacation the dock worker pumped the diesel in the water tanks. Their vacation was terminated. I dought cleaning would ever cure it and big water tanks dont come out easily.
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John wrote:

The oil delivery guy was an ignoramus who should have lost his job immediately.
When he didn't hear a whistling overfill alarm signal within a couple of seconds after opening the hose nozzle he should have known something was wrong and slammed the nozzle closed.
IMO the oil company is liable and to a lesser degree the jerks who dragged off the old fuel oil tank without removing or at least capping off the fillpipe on the inside of the house.
(In earlier days I happen to have spent a dozen years as CE of The Scully Signal Company which developed the "Ventalarm" whistling fuel oil tank fill signal in the 30s and still making them today.)
A somewhat reverse situation happened to a $1 mil plus house near me two winters ago. The owners had put it on the market and moved to a home in the next state. In order to make it salable per local codes they had to remove its underground 1000 gallon fuel oil tank, which they replaced with an above ground 275 gallon tank behind the house. The contractor who did the work for them (It was not their oil company.) partially filled the new "275" with some of oil from the 1000 gallon tank they removed.
No one thought to inform the fuel oil company, which, thinking they still had a 1000 gallon tank, and based on the date of that tank's last fill and the degree days which had transpired, didn't make an "automatic" delivery in time to keep the 275 gallon tank from running dry. The heat went off, pipes froze and burst and water kept running until it emerged outside the house where I happened to be the one who noticed rivers of brown ice running down one of their garage doors from somewhere inside the house.
http://home.comcast.net/~jwisnia18/freezer.jpg
I took on the unpleasant task of calling and breaking the the bad news to the owners. The damage to the interior of their house was terrible to observe.
My own thoughts about the smarts of a homeowner who'd leave a house unoccupied during a New England winter without so much as a low temperature remote alarm system or even simply turning off the house's main water valve are best left unsaid.
Jeff
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Jeffry Wisnia

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Not all tanks have whistles. Should they? Sure. But, as I said, not all do.
The lack of a simple Scully can ruin one's day...
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Dr. Hardcrab wrote:

Agreed, but in the absence of a whistling tank fill signal the only acceptable alternative IMO is to be able to get to the tank and check the available volume with the tank gage or by sticking the tank, before starting to pump as much as one gallon into it.
Anything less is taking too big a chance, and my sympathies go to any fuel oil delivery truck operators who are pushed by their bosses to fill the customer's tank "regardless".
Way back when we didn't lust for so much material goods and have so much of what we earned confiscated to fund welfare programs most wife's jobs were maintaining a proper and nurturing environment for their children. So, there was usually someone at home to receive an oil delivery. Typically there were two guys with the tank truck, one to go down in the basement and watch the tank level, and the other outside to handle the hose and nozzle. When the tank was safely full the guy inside would bang on the fillpipe with his wrench to signal the guy outside to stop filling.
The development of the whistling signal by Scully in the 30s made "unattended delivery" by one operator possible, as access to the tank was no longer required in order to make a safe fill. As you pointed out, it is a marvelously simple and virtually fail-safe device.
Thanks for the mammaries, and Happy Holidays,
Jeff
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Jeffry Wisnia

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wrote

Sounds good but not realistic. Many people are not home and the tanks are in the basement. which means the delivery guy cannot verify anything and you typically can't stick an inside tank.
Also the idea of listening for the whistle will only minimize damage. Modern oil delivery trucks can pump at 50 gallons or more a minute. So even a quick "squirt" can put 25 gallons into a basement if someone were to remove a tank and leave the fill intact.
Most of the blame rests with whoever did the gas install. Even if they decided to leave the fill lines in place they could have removed the fill cap and installed a $1.00, 2" black cap so no one could accidently fill.

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George wrote:

True, but one of those reports said 100 gallons went in, and if the delivery guy didn't hear a whistle in the first ten seconds he should have closed the nozzle.

I think I'm inclined to lean in that direction and put more of the blame on those gas installers than the delivery guy, because capping or removing the fill line should be SOP.
But since the reports both said somebody screwed up the street number, it looks like the oil company's gotta pay up. And I hope they cap off that poor guy's fillpipe while they're at it. <G>
Think we've saucered and blown this one now?
Jeff

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Jeffry Wisnia

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George wrote:

I happened to sit next to a fuel oil dealer at my Rotary Club's lunch meeting yesterday and asked him if tank overfill signals for "hidden" tanks were required by code here in Taxachusetts. He replied that they have been for as long as he can remember. He also said that the code requires capping disconnected fillpipes.
I don't know nuttin about Jersey though...
Happy Holidays,
Jeff

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Jeffry Wisnia

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Probably not. In Jersey, pumping home heating oil into a nonexistent oil tank would be an enviromental improvement! :-)
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Jeff Wisnia wrote:

Has been required in NJ for many decades.
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Its the homeowners responsibility to take care of a capped tank. The company that removed the unit should really be held liable for this mess.
Oil company has nothing to do with the damage. Its an unfortunate accident but thats it. Around here in NY is required to have the pipes either capped or removed from the outside of the home.
Tom
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Every once in awhile I still hear about overfilled oil tanks or worse, the disconnected fill line. Seems to me like one answer would be to take a can of that expanding foam "Great STuff" and pack that into the fill pipe. Would keep oil from filling the cellar, and provide a very minimal insullation.
I'd guess that the gas installers took the pipe off with a sawzall, which doesn't leave much threads to cap the indoor end.
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Christopher A. Young
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