Using an old fuel tank for garden water?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by GoldenMom, May 17, 2005.

  1. GoldenMom

    GoldenMom Well-Known Member

    Jan 2, 2005
    Central Iowa
    Would it be possible to use an old fuel tank to store water for watering my garden? I don't know whether it was used for diesel or gas, but it's been at least 5 years since it's had anything in it. Would there still be too much residue to safely use it for watering? If it's okay, is there anyway to attach a garden hose to it (the gas hose is shot)? I know it wouldn't support a sprinkler (it's just gravity fed) but I could put a watering attachment on the hose and gently water my plants. It would save so much time dragging out and putting away the hoses several times a week since the nearest working hydrant is 250 to 300 feet away from my garden.
  2. manygoatsnmore

    manygoatsnmore Well-Known Member Supporter

    Feb 12, 2005
    SW WA
    Could you clean it out with a degreaser or solvent to make sure all the diesel or gas is thoroughly cleaned out?

  3. tnborn

    tnborn Well-Known Member

    Mar 18, 2005
    A friend of mine did that. Got a fuel tank and going to convert it into a water tank. Well, the thing was welded shut and you have to think of hole to get water piped into it. problem that my friend encountered was no welding a hole. The metal probably still has fuel residue and fumes. So, nothing can be used to weld or sledge hammer a hole. A small spark can cause an explosion. He is thinking about a way to equalize the fumes maybe by using a freezing technique. Needless to say, it is sitting by the barn still unused. If the thing is not welded totally shut or already has a good hole for drainage then the biggest problem is already solved. Please be careful just remember fumes are still a danger and an explosion can occur. Had several people I know die in an explosion on oil wells that were supposedly safe. Fumes caused the explosion when they were doing some welding. Tanks were empty and had been abandoned for numerous years.
  4. poppy

    poppy Guest

    You can fill it with water and then knock a hole in it below water level. Water displaces any fumes.
  5. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

    Jan 20, 2004
    If you are talking typical 300 gallon fuel tank, easy to adapt the bottom bunge hole to a garden hose - $10 in pipe bits or less. There is a fill hole/cap on top of most of them.

    Has the tank been open for 5 years, or sealed up tight? The 5 years won't mean anything if it is sealed. You will need to rinse it out several times, I'd use a gallon of degreaser or some such and water and then need to rinse that out a few times. You really won't get it _clean_ for a long long time. Will always be a film on top.

    I don't know that I would want to water my veggies with this setup. I'd maybe water a flower area and/or lawn for a year, let it clean out better over time with that.

    Hate to build up toxins in a veggie area, did it ever hold _leaded_ gasoline for example? Hummmm....... Just not sure on ever considering the water safe from such a container.....

    To weld/ cut on such a thing they drop dried ice in them, the fumes from the ice displace all other air & removes O2. But that's all I will say, there is lots to think & consider to stay safe with that....

  6. WIPPdriver

    WIPPdriver Well-Known Member

    Aug 9, 2003
    What we used to do, and it is still done, in the oilfield is to steam out the tank with very hot steam. I used to operate a hotoiler and when I had to steam a tank out I would start out with about 240 to 250 degree steam @ 1/2 bbl per minute for about an hour and then crank up the heat 300 to 320 degrees for another 1 to 1 1/2 hour. That hot "dry" heat will remove any residue that is stuck behind any rust that may be still inside.

  7. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

    Nov 7, 2002
    South West MI
    Open it up and let sit in the sun for a few days rinse it out with dawn dish soap if it still smells.

  8. raymilosh

    raymilosh Well-Known Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    I have done what poppy suggests when i have had to weld up gas tanks on old cars. Fill it with water. If its full of water, there won't be any fumes, just water. Of course the water will draw the heat out of the metal very quickly, so it may only be possible to torch cut it rather than weld it while it is near full. If you need to weld, you'll have to let some of the water out. If you're afraid the metal will offgas enough fumes afterwards (which isn't really possible) keep a flame there while the water is being let out. 350 gallons is a lot... consider it to be your first wash and rinse

    Contamination coming from a fuel tank reincarnated as an irrigation tank immediately comes to mind and warrants a thorough thinking before proceeding with the plan....
    IMHO, after degreasing and rinsing a tank, the amount of residual in the tank, including what is actually absorbed into the steel may be as much as half a pint (It's probably way less, but let's be safe). Assuming the tank is not a magical source of contaminants, the tank could yield as much as half a pint of fuel which would be applied to the garden. Is that too much?....Well, none would be better.
    What would be the effects of that much fuel being digested by the soil microbes and taken up into plant tissue? What is fossil fuel anyway?...It is a naturally occuring concentrate of decayed plant and animal tissue combined with potentially lots of industrial chemicals. The oil part can be digested (biodegraded) over time. I don't know about the chemicals. Has it happened in my garden before? Have I ever run a gasoline engine over or near my garden? Did it leak any oil or fuel? Did the exhaust wash over the plants or the soil? Yes, I have and yes, it did. More than once. Well, then, I have already contaminated the area with these things and it's likely that the amount of contaminants from the gas and oil and exhaust amount to a lot more than residuals left in a steel tank.
    I/we need to face it, our farms may be organic and look natural, but if we use oil and gasoline, we all live in places awash with oil and industrial chemicals. We all do. It's just one of the things that goes along with using oil for energy.
    I think pretending my tiller and my car don't contaminate and that an empty tank does is just pretending.
    I'd recommend you wash the tank out best as you can (while pretending that the rinse water and degreasers do not contaminate where they wind up) and use the tank to water your garden.
  9. 3girls

    3girls Well-Known Member

    Aug 18, 2004
    SE PA, zone 6b
    I had the hose problem in another location and have it here. My solution was to have a guy come out and dig some trenches to the outlying areas (a Ditchwitch should work) and lay water pipe out to various outposts. There, I had installed frost free faucets. These are big valves on top of several feet of galvan pipe on the bottom of which is a four way inlet/outlet. The water would come in one arm, and another outlet would be hooked up to feed the next valve in line. Unused inlet/outlets would be plugged. Included in this underground device was a way for the water in the standpipe to drain (thereby making it frost free). I plan to install this arrangement here, also. I had 6 valves on my 5 acres in WesternWA state.

    I would not use any storage containers for your purposes except those that had food grade ratings. Use the fuel tank to make a super duper bar-b-que. A good welder can make one in a heartbeat.
  10. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

    May 10, 2002
    Fill with water and cut access with metal cutting blade in circular saw. Thats what I did when gas tank on my old Ford pickup got rusty and plugged fuel filter no matter what. Geniuses that design these things cant think long term. Should have gasketed top and plug in bottom to drain, but that would cost couple nickles extra and maybe prevent the sale of a new fuel tank later down road... Once opened up I could go at it with wire brush on angle grinder then coat inside with epoxy resin. Worked like charm. I just cut sheet metal bigger than hole and epoxied it to top holding it down with sheet metal screws. Epoxy sealed it.

    Now on bulk fuel tank (assuming its like old farm tanks that held fuel for tractors) like you mention, isnt there a filler hole on top of tank? I mean the fuel truck had to fill dang thing some how. These werent throw away disposable.

    If it was me, I'd open a big access panel on top of tank so you can get down into it, next wash it out with detergent, then get in there and clean it with powered wire brush then coat it with resin. Make access panel so it can be put back in place and removable in future for clean out. Since you are using it for water the resin will keep it from rusting and keep any remaining contaminates sealed into metal.