Double Delivery Presents Dilemma for Local Home

Double Delivery Presents Dilemma for Local Home

When the tenants moved into 1200 Alden Road, they didn't realize that their landlords still had the home scheduled for automatic refill of heating oil. So, when the oil started to get low, it made sense for them to order oil from a local heating oil company.

Oil was delivered, the house was warm and everything was fine.

Until the other heating oil company came for their scheduled fill-up on December 18. This second delivery of oil proved to be too much for the tank which ruptured, spilling heating oil into the basement of the home. The tenants have since moved and the house sits empty pending an environmental assessment. Owner, Bridget Dearing, lives out of the area and was not available for comment.

While an oil spill in a house is rare, it does happen and oil companies are prepared to deal with it. Fannon Oil Company was not one of the companies involved, but Jack Fannon explained how this type of accident could happen. He said that people may not understand how a tank is actually filled.

He said that it's not like a car where once the tank is full, it starts spilling over or the fuel nozzle automatically shuts off. With an oil tank, servicemen have to rely on a series of whistles to let them know when the tank is getting full. As the oil goes in, air is pushed out and it starts to whistle; when it gets near the top of the tank, the tone of the whistle changes and the serviceman knows to stop filling the tank. Fannon said that sometimes the fill pipe gets clogged up with mice and other things and that can cause problems. He also said that when homeowners convert from heating oil to gas, they remove the tank but sometimes leave the fill pipes. If they forget to stop the automatic refill, they could end up with a basement of oil as well.

FANNON SAID THAT when things like this happen, the key is to get the oil spill up as quickly as possible. Oil companies use super absorbent materials to soak up the oil and then use vapor abatement systems to disperse the fumes.

Capt. Dean Sherick with the Hazmat Technical Support Branch said that they did collect product the initial day of the spill. "We used a combination of vapor extraction and collection treatment system to collect the oil," said Sherick.

However, the extent of the overflow was such that the oil seeped into the sump pump and underneath the slab. This made it necessary for the case be turned over the Department of Environmental Quality.

Riaz Syed, environmental engineer with the Department of Environmental Quality, said that they are currently doing a site assessment of the risk, if any, to either on-site or off-site receptors.

"Wells will probably be installed to collect oil and groundwater samples," he said.

Once that is done, a report will be submitted to see what the risk is and to determine how far the contamination has gone. Based on what they find, DEQ will require that the property be cleaned to non-risk levels.

Some soil may have to be removed, but Riaz doesn't think that the house will be condemned. As far as there being a risk from explosion, that is highly unlikely. Fannon said that heating oil has to atomize into a fine spray and then be hit with a 10,000 volt spark before it will ignite; highly unlikely in this case.

Sherick said that there are three solutions to preventing this problem for other homeowners using heating oil: check and replace the tank, if old; have better communication about delivery schedule; and notify the oil company if a home has been converted to gas, remove fill pipes as well as the tank.