The Environment Agency is urging people to check their oil tanks for leaks to protect the environment and reduce the risk of potentially large financial losses.
With winter approaching, many households – particularly in rural areas – will soon be getting oil delivered.
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; just two litres of oil could seriously pollute the volume of fresh water needed to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
Neil Paisley, from the organisation’s environmental management team, 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.”
To report an oil spill or leak, call the Environment Agency’s 24-hour emergency hotline on 0800 807060.