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Advantages of Foam Fill

Foam is the best fill medium, by far!

You may have heard that foam doesn’t work. That may be true for some jobs performed by other companies, but is not true for jobs completed by SSE.


The contractor used by SSE has been foaming tanks for 20+ years and performs quality assurance tests regularly. The foam continues to expand, completely filling the interior, as can be seen in this photo.

After the foam in the above ground storage tank (AST) shown to the right had about a week to set up, I cut the tank open. The interior of the tank had not been cleaned out. Being a closed-cell tri-polymer, the foam encapsulated all of the petroleum residuals adhered to the interior of the tank. Upon inspection, only rust was left on the interior surface of the AST, as can be seen in the second photo.

This foam is an environmentally-safe, expanding tri-polymer designed specifically for the filling of petroleum underground storage tanks (USTs). If the UST ever had to be removed from the ground, an excavator would have no trouble lifting it out. The tank could then be cut open and the foam scooped out, placed in garbage bags, and the foam disposed of at the landfill (relatively inexpensive). If a tank filled with cement slurry must be removed, a crane would be required, or the steel would have to be torn off of the concrete cylinder and the concrete broken up with jackhammers (very labor intensive and costly).

I have been asked if the foam will support the overlying soil when the tank rusts away. As can be seen, the foam is plenty strong to support the weight of a person standing directly on it.



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1. Foam is less expensive: (costs include tank closure report with photographic documentation, vacuum truck service, and fluid disposal unless otherwise stated)


            Foam-filled cost (SSE’s proposal):                                 $4,500.00 (1,100 gallons)

             Cement-filled (from a competitor’s quote):                   $6,300.00 + $1.00/gallon of fluid (1,100 gallons)


2. Foam is less labor intensive and invasive:


To fill a tank with cement slurry, more soil must be removed from above the tank and a larger hole cut for access to the interior. The slurry usually has to be moved from the delivery truck to the tank by wheel barrow (back and forth traffic damages the lawn). If a pump must be used, that would add at least $600.00 to the above competitor’s cost.


When using foam, the soil around the fill and vent pipes is removed. The pipes are then removed for access to the interior. Or, a posthole digger is used and a 3-inch diameter hole(s) cut in the top of the tank. Such a small area is disturbed that when the soil is put back in place, most people cannot tell that any work was done (that’s why we take photographs).


3. How important is it to get inside of the tank to clean it?


First, confined space entry is very dangerous and requires a permit and must be done by an authorized/trained individual. SSE does not enter a tank due to the safety risks.


Removing the oil and sludge through the fill port in the top of the tank is quite adequate, especially for a tank that has leaked. Sensible Solutions removes the existing fluids, then adds a concentrated industrial degreaser and tap water to further remove any petroleum residuals. A pressure washer is used when necessary. Because the foam is “closed-cell”, any remaining petroleum residuals are encapsulated and held by the foam, preventing their release.


4. What if the tank ever needs to be removed from the ground (sometimes required to satisfy a buyer)?


Removing a tank filled with cement would require the use of a crane (est. $400/hr) or men with jackhammers, plus disposal of the concrete—labor intensive and costly.


A foam-filled tank is easily removed, cut in half, and the foam scooped out and placed in garbage bags to be disposed of with the household garbage.


5. Why should a tank next to a basement foundation never be filled with cement slurry?


Most tanks are only partially filled with oil, to avoid over-filling. A tank completely filled with cement weighs significantly more. Over time, that tremendous weight will seek a path least resistant to settling, possibly rolling toward and crashing through the basement wall. Sensible Solutions does not recommend, nor do we perform, the removal of an UST that is located next to a basement wall.

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