It is also the time of year when the Environment Agency urges people to check their oil tanks to protect the environment and reduce the risk of potentially large financial losses.
Leaked oil can end up in drains, many of which lead directly to rivers, streams, lakes and even garden ponds, having the same effect as pouring it directly into the watercourse.
Oil is poisonous to fish and other wildlife and smothers plants and just 2 litres of oil could seriously pollute the volume of fresh water needed to fill an olympic-size swimming pool.
Senior Environment Officer Jamie Fairfull said:
Heating oil can cause serious problems if it gets into the environment. But it’s not just the cost of losing the oil that can be expensive, clean up costs can be large and are not always covered by household insurance policies.
This is why it is vital that oil is only ever stored in tanks that are in good condition. Both the tank and pipe work should be regularly inspected and people should never buy more oil than they can safely store.
Householders with domestic oil tanks should take the following action to ensure they are safe for use:
*Site tanks as far away as possible from drains, streams and ponds.
*Inspect tanks, pipes and other equipment for leaks, damage and interference once a week. Any problems should be fixed as soon as possible by an Oil Firing Technical Association (OFTEC) technician. http://www.oftec.org.uk/
*Arrange for the boiler and tank to be serviced at least once a year by an (OFTEC) technician. This should include any underground pipe work.
*Monitor how much oil they use. If the volume of oil being used suddenly increases, there could be a leak.
*Supervise oil deliveries. People should never allow their tank to be overfilled and should not order more oil than they can safely store.
*Check their home insurance covers clean up costs on both their property and neighbouring land. Always notify insurers immediately in the event of a spill or suspected spill.
*If a tank starts leaking, householders should try to stop the oil soaking into the ground or going down drains. They should contact their insurance company to arrange for an OFTEC technician or UKSpill-accredited clean-up company http://www.ukspill.org/
*Secondary containment (such as a bund) will prevent oil from escaping into the environment if a leak occurs. This is a legal requirement for domestic tanks which store more than 3,500 litres.
To report an oil spill or leak, people should contact the Environment Agency’s 24-hour emergency hotline on 0800 807060.