EAST BRIDGEWATER – When a massive oil spill left East Bridgewater resident Kevin Hurley’s home uninhabitable, he assumed his home insurance would cover the cleanup.
But to his surprise, oil spills in heating tanks aren’t covered by most standard insurance plans, and he could now end up paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for cleanup.
It all started on August 18 when Hurley, 64, was in hospital suffering from COVID-19. His son, Zackary Hurley, 21, who lives with him, discovered the oil spill in the garage around 7 a.m. and called the fire department.
It turned out that a rust stain on the heating tank of the family home the size of a penny had burst, causing oil to spill all over the garage.
Zackary called the fire department, and since the spill exceeded 10 gallons, the fire department also called the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. Overall, it was estimated that 200 to 250 gallons of oil spilled.
âThe fire lieutenant came out. He said he had been a firefighter for 10 years and had never seen such a bad oil spill,â Kevin said.
Several organizations worked to mitigate and clean up the garage spill, which cost the family $ 8,000. The Hurleys also had to buy a new oil tank, which cost them $ 3,500.
But the biggest problem for the Hurleys was that the garage had drains, causing oil to seep under the garage and under the house. Organizations cleaning up the spill are still checking monitoring wells to see how far the oil has traveled.
âWe’re back in the house. Now we’ve dug the garage floor with the drains and we have a fan inside that pushes the fumes out,â Kevin said. “It’s been six weeks since we installed the blower, and you can still strongly smell the oil.”
Depending on how far the oil has traveled, the cost of cleaning and replacing the garage floor could cost the Hurleys hundreds of thousands of dollars.
After the spill, the Hurleys quickly filed a claim with their home insurance company, expecting the spill to be covered. But to their dismay, it was not.
âWe found out that the request was turned down because they said the pollutants are not covered and the oil tank is not part of the heating system,â Kevin said.
Turns out the insurance company can cover the spill, but the family should have purchased an additional policy beforehand to cover it. Kevin said he wished he knew the oil tank was covered by a separate policy so he could have bought it a long time ago.
âThe biggest problem with all of this isâ¦ since 2010 (insurance companies) have a rider you can get to cover oil tanks, but by law they don’t have to tell you. , so no one knows, “he said.
Attorney-at-law Susan Crane worked for the Hurleys free of charge, helping them understand the situation. Kevin said the problem of insurance companies not covering oil spills has been a problem for a long time, and Crane advocated for the law to be changed to force insurance companies to cover oil reservoirs, but in vain.
Now, with many area residents having oil-heated homes, Kevin said he wanted to make sure everyone knew he needed additional policy to cover their oil tank in the event of a spill.
âIf you’ve got oil, you should get that jumper,â he said.
If you’d like to help the Hurleys pay for cleaning their home, you can donate through their GoFundMe campaign.
Enterprise Staff Writer Susannah Sudborough can be contacted by email at [email protected] You can follow her on Twitter at @k_sudborough. Support local journalism by purchasing a digital or print subscription to The Enterprise today.