In 2021 we dismantled a 150,000-gallon elevated tank in southern Alabama, moved it three miles down the road, and reassembled the tank at a new location. The lumber product manufacturer that owns the tank wanted it moved to a new location so they could use it as a billboard.
Across the United States, many elevated tanks find a second life as a billboard and serve as a nostalgic landmark for their communities.
We installed a new foundation at the new site in preparation for the tank. PTTG representatives visited the worksite to get actual measurements to ensure that the foundation was accurate before moving the tank. A transportation route was also mapped out and utilized during the relocation. Once it was moved to its new location, PTTG rebuilt it and painted the tank. After relocation and upgrades, it was like a new tank again.
As circumstances change, sometimes assets like tanks need to be relocated. If a town’s population is growing, they might need more pressure from their water tank. Capacities can be modified during the relocation process. The tanks can be raised or lowered to adjust the water pressure. Recycling and reducing waste are two excellent opportunities tank relocation provides.
Not all tanks are candidates for relocation. Old tanks or towers can be eyesores, rust-streaked, and full of pinholes. Beyond their decaying appearance, old tanks can be safety hazards if not either repaired or demolished. Abandoned tanks long out of service are perfect candidates for demolition. They have usually fallen into such disrepair that it would be expensive to upgrade and potentially hazardous to leave standing without any rehabilitation.
An engineering survey should be completed before site preparation begins, whether it’s for relocation or a demolition project. Planning should include a discussion of which method is best to bring the tank down and what equipment is needed to complete the task.
Many tanks are in highly populated areas that require specific permitting and logistical execution before demolition begins. It’s different dismantling a tank that’s near buildings versus one located in an open field.
For one thing, it’s a lot quicker process if there are no other structures nearby, particularly when dealing with elevated tanks. In an open area, the demolition crew can take out the tank’s riser, cut the post heads and drop the tank inside its legs. Think of it like felling a tree in a forest. This method is not feasible if the tank is next to buildings because there just isn’t enough room to maneuver.
If a tank is adjacent to buildings or in a heavily wooded area, a crane must be used to dismantle it piece by piece, with the discarded pieces set carefully on the ground.
As with any job, the appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn by contractors as required by OSHA standards. That includes eye, face, hand, foot, respiratory and hearing protection, as well as personal fall arrest equipment if the person is working more than four feet off the ground. Any crew working at the site should also receive safety training compliant with OSHA standards. Experienced crews can handle everything from scrap disposal to site cleanup.
The roof of the tank would be lifted and lowered to the ground first, followed by sections of the bowl, then the tower legs. Pre-cutting the welded seams makes removing the pieces easier and faster. This process might take a day or two, whereas dropping a tank takes a matter of hours. Dismantling a tank in a confined area is also more expensive since more equipment is necessary, plus the insurance to cover such a project costs more. Demolition can also include removing the concrete foundation and fencing that may have surrounded the tank.
Once the tank has been disassembled, the metal can be sold for scrap or disposed of, depending on if it’s potentially toxic or not. Older tanks are more likely to have been coated with lead paint. To protect people and the environment, any metal coated in lead should be disposed of at a facility authorized to take hazardous materials. The utmost care should be taken not to disturb the lead paint, cutting down on the chance of it escaping into the atmosphere.
Of course, tanks can house different liquids and gases, not just water. Recycling fuel tanks can be a little tricky and costly. Before a scrap dealer accepts the tank, it must be cleaned and punctured so that no vapor can build up. Not all landfills will accept fuel tanks. Steel can also be melted down and reused for other projects. Once everything is complete on the tank specialist’s end, a landscape expert can be brought in to help restore the topsoil.
Whether a tank is a candidate for rehabilitation or removal is up to the owner. But it’s always best to work with skilled specialists who can help guide the tank owners on the best course of action.