Technicians reduce local pollution risk

You may have seen an article in the Summer 2021 edition where we introduced an exciting trial we have been involved in across Hampshire and West Sussex with the Environment Agency (EA) and Portsmouth Water.

Oil tank insurance

This campaign has been working with OFTEC registered technicians to urge householders to check and replace failing tanks. Messaging targeted customers’ motivations of continued warmth, security of supply, and avoiding the risk of potentially large financial losses, rather than previous messages which appealed to a need to protect the environment. As an incentive, Portsmouth Water subsidises a free inspection and 50% grant towards replacement works in priority locations.

The trial element of the campaign has now ended, but many of the most successful tactics are now being taken up longer term by Portsmouth Water.

What did they do?

They identified over 500 households most likely to be on domestic heating oil using All these properties were in ‘source protection zones’ situated over valuable naturally occurring groundwater abstracted for drinking water.

The trial compared two approaches for engaging customers. They split the 500 households into two equal groups; one received a yearly mailshot with a cover letter and leaflet. The other group received the same leaflet, plus face-to-face advice through their OFTEC registered technician as part of their annual boiler service. Articles were also run in the parish magazines of both groups.

Both tactics urged householders to contact Portsmouth Water for a free inspection and/or 50% off a replacement tank should the inspection recommend it.


What were the results?

Face-to-face contact from technicians was the most successful intervention. Customer response rate to the campaign was three times higher when technicians took the householder through the campaign messages; 9% (25 households) compared with only 2.4% (6 households) receiving the mailshot only.

And of those customer enquiries, 92% (23 households) receiving the technician visit went on to have a free inspection, compared with 83% (5 households) receiving the mailshot only. 17 households replaced their tanks due to a technician visit, and only four due to the mailshot.

Put that together with enquiries resulting from parish council magazines and word of mouth and that resulted in an impressive 25 tanks, at least 25,000 litres less oil, less likely to pollute the local water environment because of this trial.

It’s simple to get involved

Portsmouth Water is still recruiting! Portsmouth Water has decided to continue with the most successful tactics longer term. So far, they have recruited 11 technicians through the OFTEC newsletter and this magazine. But they need more to meet customer demand.

It’s simple to get involved. If you work in Hampshire and West Sussex, contact Beth Fairley on 07872 108992 or It’s an easy way of reaching new customers. You can find out more at

You will be asked to complete a simple registration and contract. Then, when on routine inspections, simply tell the customer about the scheme and hand them the leaflet. Give Beth at Portsmouth Water a ring to check eligibility.

Once that’s confirmed, the customer chooses their technician (generally the original technician but they can choose any technician on the scheme). Once the works are complete, you simply invoice the customer and Portsmouth Water for the respective contributions, and Portsmouth Water pays within the 30 days agreed.

G. RIXON LTD., a small family run business, is already signed up to the campaign: “The scheme has been a mutually beneficial arrangement and we have been able to include numerous existing customers within the scheme which has significantly increased our sales.”

Urge your customers to check their oil tanks

What if you don’t work in the campaign area? If you work elsewhere in the country, please urge your customers to check their oil tanks for leaks to protect the environment and their pocket.

Simon Deacon, catchment and environment manager at Portsmouth Water is part of the campaign: “I would encourage all technicians, wherever they work, to visit our campaign website. Even though the campaign materials are for Hampshire and West Sussex many of the messages are universal.”

Dawn O’Neill, Environment Agency groundwater technical specialist, also part of the trial, adds: “Oil pollution is one of the most common incidents I deal with. Please encourage your customers to take these 3 easy steps:

  • Find out if their tanks are safe at after-your-oil/regular-tank-checks/.
  • Check their tank regularly and find a competent person to check it annually on the competent persons register.
  • Always report an oil spill or leak to the Environment Agency’s 24-hour emergency hotline on 0800 80 70 60.”

OFTEC, the Environment Agency and Portsmouth Water would like to thank all the technicians for their involvement in this trial.