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Ottawa considers incentives to help swap out heating oil fuel tanks to protect source water

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A City of Ottawa committee is recommending council approval of the home heating oil fuel tank incentive program to help eliminate contamination threats to municipal drinking water sources such as wells.

While existing policies do require annual inspections and maintenance to prevent spills, removing these tanks would eliminate the risk altogether, states the City’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee. If passed, the incentive program would encourage owners to replace existing tanks with an alternative heating source.

The program would start with a budget of $260,000 and could offer additional incentives through the Better Homes Ottawa Loan program to encourage tank replacement with a greener energy option such as an air source heat pump or natural gas.

The air source heat pump option is approximately double the cost of natural gas, the committee stated, yet offers many more environmental benefits compared to natural gas. The cost of conversion could range from $15,000 to $25,000, with the program proposing to cover up to $15,000.

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The cost to recycle and properly decommission the oil and oil tank, replace it with a new natural gas furnace, and then connect to natural gas is about $10,000, the committee stated.

The committee said in a report that it is currently aware of at least six outstanding fuel threats on residential properties in Ottawa. While the city said it has politely requested compliance, it may turn to enforcement through Risk Management Plans under source protection. However, the incentive program is the currently preferred new approach. About 12 residences in total may have options under the incentive program, including some that have already signed a Risk Management Plan agreement.

Since 2017, nine identified threats have been resolved by working with landowners, the committee found.

The program works in conjunction with Wellhead Protection Areas for municipal supply wells under Ontario’s Clean Water Act.

The committee also said that it wants to decrease the minimum under the Better Homes Ottawa Loan Program to $5,000 so that the properties identified in its report can take advantage of additional incentives.

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