The disaster that may be corroding in your cellar

Photo (cc) 2012 by limecools

One afternoon more than 25 years ago I was talking with the late Boston Globe columnist David Nyhan. I mentioned to him that we were buying a three-family house in Topsfield as a rental property. He warned me about new state septic-system regulations. I didn’t pay much attention.

I should have. Several years later, after a heavy rainstorm, the septic system failed, and we had to replace it. As I recall, it cost us $50,000. We sold the house and vowed to stay out of the rental market from that point on.

I thought about that this morning when I read the horrifying story of Emmaline and Brian Proctor, whose new home in Wareham became a financial disaster when their oil tank leaked. According to the Globe’s Sean Murphy, state-mandated cleanup will cost them more than $185,000, and their homeowners insurance doesn’t cover it. Murphy writes:

Under strictly enforced state environmental laws, the Proctors are now responsible for removing contamination caused by the spill. That means their contractor must excavate at least 10 feet under the house to test the soil and remove contaminated portions. And to do that, the contractor must temporarily lift the house off its foundation for access.

Yow! This could happen to any of us with oil heat. The oil tank in our current house started leaking within a week or two of our moving in seven years ago. There was little spillage, fortunately, and I remember being peeved that we had to spend $700 on a new tank. Now I realize it could have been much, much worse.

As Murphy writes, coverage for such disasters should be mandatory. And something should be done to help unsuspecting homeowners like the Proctors, who face financial disaster for a problem that was not of their making.