Oil spills can happen when there is a faulty or badly maintained central heating oil tank in your home.

Incidents of oil pollution can cause serious environmental damage, lead to contaminated land and prove potentially harmful to health and property.

Emergency action

If you discover an oil leak or have a spill:

  • deal with it immediately
  • stop the flow of oil by closing valves or use dry sand, earth or material from a spill kit to soak up the oil and prevent any further oil loss
  • contact the Environment Agency so they can assess any impact on streams and rivers
  • contact your insurance company
  • notify your landlord if renting
  • notify Bristol Water so they can assess whether the drinking water supply network is affected
  • contact us on 01454 868001 or by email environmental.protection@southglos.gov.uk for advice or if you can smell oil fumes or experience symptoms such as headaches, sore throats, skin rashes, nausea or vomiting

It is against the law to cause pollution so you must take action quickly to clean up any serious spill or leak.

Minimise the risk of pollution

To help minimise the risk of pollution, follow the steps below.

Get to know your tank

It is important to know what type of tank and pipework arrangement you have and how to use it. Your tank supplier or oil delivery company may be able to help.

Check your tank

You should:

  • check the amount of oil in your tank regularly and know how much you are using
  • always supervise your delivery and discuss delivery procedures with your supply company
  • check your tank, pipework and bund for signs of corrosion or degradation (oil staining, rust, discolouration, cracks, crazing), any obvious leaks or signs of distortion or bulging
  • get a qualified professional to inspect your tank system at least once a year

Maintenance and repair

You should:

  • take action to fix any problems or concerns and always use a qualified professional
  • get advice from a competent tank installer if you need to replace your tank
  • make sure you obtain any necessary planning and building control permissions


Oil spills and leaks can be expensive to put right with costs running to tens of thousands of pounds.

Make sure you have insurance cover and your policy includes:

  • the cost of replacing the lost oil
  • the costs of cleaning up oil on your property and neighbouring land and property
  • environmental clean-up for accidental oil loss


If oil contaminates soil, ground or surface water, damages property and risks harm to human health, you may be required to clean it up under Part 2A of The Environment Protection Act 1990 or The Environmental Damage (Prevention and Remediation) (England) Regulations 2015 (legislation.gov.uk) as amended.

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