Mystery of the underground oil tank

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Editor's note: Robert Bruss is temporarily away. The following column from Bruss' "Best of" collection first appeared Sunday, July 16, 2006. DEAR BOB: I am the fifth owner of an 80-year-old house. I have owned it for 11 years. While trying to determine why a patch of my lawn was dying, I discovered the home's original underground heating oil tank. This was not disclosed to me when I bought the house. As best I can determine, the tank has not been used for 35 years. It is empty. I estimate it to be 700 gallons. Should this have been disclosed to me? --Gary J. DEAR GARY: If your seller knew of the underground oil storage tank, he or she should have disclosed it to you. However, since you have owned the house 11 years, the statute of limitations expired long ago. But I doubt that is the cause of the brown patch in your lawn. If there was any oil in the leaking tank, it would seep downward, not upward. Perhaps the soil above the tank was contaminated when the tank was b...