December 2019

Fuel delivery company wrongly dumps 250 gallons of oil in basement of Maryland home


WJLA-12

by Kevin Lewis | WJLA Staff

SILVER SPRING, Md. (WJLA) — A fuel delivery company mistakenly dumped around 250 gallons of heating oil into the basement of a Silver Spring home, causing a nightmare scenario for the vacationing homeowners and their basement tenant.

Around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, that tenant awoke to his alarm clark, plus the potent odor of oil. Confused, he stepped out of bed and quickly noticed a bright red liquid coating the entire basement floor of the home located along the 600 block of Bennington Lane.

“When I was in bed, I heard this gushing sound and thought it might have been a water leak,” said the male tenant, who asked that his name not be publicized. “I didn’t have enough dots to connect what was really going on.”

The tenant ultimately called 911, which generated a hazmat response. Montgomery County Fire Rescue Service discovered a receipt attached to the home’s front door indicating approximately 250 gallons had been deposited only a few hours earlier. For context, that is enough fuel to fill the gas tanks of nearly 16 Toyota Camry sedans.

First responders determined there was no risk of an explosion or flammability and deemed the home to be safe. Before leaving, they opened almost every window to help diffuse the noxious scent.

The Maryland Department of the Environment conducted a number of tests, but did not detect any oil runoff in nearby Sligo Creek. WSSC Water placed degreaser in the sewer system as the basement has a drainage pipe. Pepco also responded to the home as all 250 gallons of oil spilled onto the electrical circuit breaker box. Pepco removed the meter out of an abundance of caution.

To its credit, the fuel delivery company quickly admitted fault and and contracted a petroleum remediation company to begin the clean-up operation. Workers hooked hoses to a tanker truck and ran the lines into the home. They also used packets of white, oil spill absorbent pads. The entire restoration process could easily take two weeks to complete.

“It’s a combination of errors,” a person briefed on the hazmat incident told ABC7. “The driver goes to the wrong house. It turns out the house they go to used to have heating oil, still has the hookups, no longer has the tank, they pump it in, there’s no tank to catch it and it just flows like water.”

The homeowners are currently in New England and did not have plans to return until after the Thanksgiving holiday. The tenant — who moved into the basement apartment in April 2018 — does not have renters insurance, but remained optimistic that many of his valuables will be salvageable.

“I’m sure my subwoofer is toast. It remains to be seen if the hard drives escaped in tact, but mercifully fews items of value are badly damaged. They just really smell like oil.”

Does the tenant harbor resentment for being forced out of his home one day before Thanksgiving? The answer: not really.

“I don’t have time for grudges. Life’s too short. He made his mistake and he’s going to have to live with it. I mean, you can imagine what is going to happen.”

For tax purposes, heating fuel is dyed red before it is sold. That allows regulators to distinguish the difference between building heating oil and motor vehicle diesel fuel.