People in Newfoundland and Labrador who use oil to heat their homes now have to adhere to new codes regarding their storage tanks.

The new regulations came into effect Wednesday and are intended to protect against oil spills and leaks.

However, the changes will cost homeowners roughly an extra $600 when they upgrade or purchase a new tank.

"We've been doing good work around this in reducing spills, but we need to get to that place where we have zero," said Minister of Environment and Conservation Dan Crummell.

"The cost of these spills are in the thousands, if not tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Crummell said the number of such incidents has been steadily declining over the last 15 years, since the record year of 2001 — which saw 604 recorded spills.

After that year, the department decided to adapt regulations proposed by the Canadian Standards Association, which has resulted in the number of spills dropping to 139 in total between April 2009 and March 2013.

Details of amendments

The new changes to the codes include several new rules designed to prevent oil from spilling out of the tank onto the ground, causing soil contamination.

As well, the environment department says the requirements will better protect against home fire risk and will increase energy efficiency.

Home heating oil tank

The provincial Department of Environment and Conservation says the changes are necessary to stay in line with national standards.

The new codes include the requirements to have "dedicated openings" at the top of the tank for the purpose of water testing and the installation of a new containment device under the indoor filter.

The government has no plans to subsidize the cost of the new codes, and Crummell insists while the extra $600 may be an annoying expense for many, but that it's in the best interest of everyone.

"If you look at the big picture and the cost of clean-ups from these spills, it's a minor cost," he said.

"These are just amendments and upgrades to ensure the oil storage tanks are safer."