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.

Willowdale State Forest

I took a six-mile hike in Willowdale State Forest in Topsfield on Saturday. And for th first time in ages, I managed to avoid getting off the trail in the confusing northwest section. Beautiful day for a hike!

Mile Brook, Topsfield

Along Perkins Row in Topsfield, in the middle of an 18-mile ride. This is Mile Brook, looking north.

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North Shore bike ride

Near the Danvers-Peabody line. The sign in the middle says “God Bless America.”
Near Danvers Center
Salem Beverly Waterway Canal

Footbridge over the Ipswich River

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Bradley Palmer State Park, Topsfield-Ipswich line.

Blue, green and gray

Beverly Salem canal

Looking south along the Salem Beverly Waterway Canal from the old bridge in Topsfield.

Town line

At the Ipswich-Topsfield line between Bradley Palmer State Park and Willowdale State Forest. The road it’s on is called Ipswich Road in Topsfield and Topsfield Road in Ipswich.

Running along the Salem Beverly Waterway Canal

I charted a great new five-mile running route yesterday — along the Salem Beverly Waterway Canal, over to the Topsfield Rail Trail, up to the Topsfield Fairgrounds and back. I took this photo at the beginning (end?) of the canal, in Wenham, just off Cherry Street.

According to this Wikipedia article, the canal was built in 1917 and “was never used to transport anything but water and recreational canoeists.” I’d hiked along it a few times with scouts, but had never gone from one end to the other until yesterday. A great North Shore resource.

And despite its name, no part of it lies in either Salem or Beverly — it runs southeast to northwest from Wenham to Topsfield.

Brown Christmas

Click on image for larger views.

Bradley Palmer State Park, Christmas Day, 2011.