Thieves are turning their attention to aboveground petroleum tanks, warns a Purdue University extension specialist. "With the price of gas and diesel fuel going up, some people are now a little bit more apt to help themselves to your fuel tanks," says Fred Whitford, coordinator of Purdue Pesticide Programs. "When that happens, you're lucky if all you lose is the gas or diesel." Sometimes thieves leave the power to the tank on, running valuable fuel onto the ground and contaminating soil. Whitford is the lead author of a new publication, Aboveground Petroleum Tanks. Available in print and online versions, it can help farmers select the right tank for a farm, handle fuel spills and learn how to safeguard fuel tanks, among other topics.

"Install lights around the tank and put locks on the tank," Whitford suggests as security measures. "At nighttime you can turn the electricity off to your tank. You can even turn the circuits off from inside your barn or farm building. Some people have even gone so far as to put up security cameras." Whitford urges farmers to put tanks in locations that help protect groundwater in the event of a spill, and to prepare for an emergency before it happens. "Most of our insurance policies will not cover cleaning up contamination," he explains. "So if you had a fuel spill, the cleanup would come out of your pocket."

More than 230 photos in the 110-page booklet show examples of proper and improper fuel-tank practices. The photos come from 15 years of Whitford's travels to commercial businesses and farms across Indiana.

Also known as Purdue Extension Publication PPP-73, it can be ordered for $1 plus shipping and handling by calling the toll-free Purdue Extension hotline at 888-398-4636 or by emailing It also can downloaded free at

Contact Whitford at 765-494-1284 or