Monday, June 19, 2006

Life has thrown us a curve ball. Just when we were feeling all blissed out about our new marriage, our house, our garden, and everything in general, something bubbled to the surface. Old heating oil, to be exact.

To our misfortune, that oil represents not a windfall as for our affectionately remembered Clampett family. We will not be cashing in to the pe-tro-le-um company. Instead, we will be hiring an environmental consulting company to mitigate the soil contamination.

Underground Storage Tanks, or USTs as they are vernacularly known, were commonly used in this area. They fell out of favor in the 1980s in lieu of gas heat, but most older homes had them and many still have them, buried or above ground. They are relatively harmless until they start leaking, which is exactly what happened in our yard.

How did we find it? Nestled between the back of the house and the shed was a patch of grass that suddenly gave up the ghost. We noticed the dying grass a few weeks ago but were busy with the wedding.

In denial, I posited theories about the stain, such as, "maybe there was an old car parked here," "the old gardener* must have spilled a something," and most recently "Aha! When the HVAC was replaced, they pulled the old unit out onto this very spot! It's freon!" Meanwhile, Jon the realist quietly recited his new mantra, "it's an oil tank, it's an oil tank."

See, the thing is that there couldn't be an oil tank on the property. I had already eliminated that possibility during the weeks leading up to the house purchase. Because of a suspicious nozzle on the exterior kitchen wall, I had someone come out and perform a highly scientific gravity test using a metal washer on a string. Not convinced? When the kitchen floor was opened and my plumber crawled under the oil tank.

Well, at least, not in that spot.

Anyway, you may recall from just a few posts ago that we had a good deal of rain from Tropical Storm Alberto. Shortly after the skies parted, it became evident that we had a situation on our hands. I got out a shovel and began to dig. About two feet underground, we found it. Apparently, the 8 inches of rain we got in five hours had flooded the tank, pushing the contents to the surface. Now we have a toxic waste site on our property.

Stayed tuned for additional installments of the saga and wish us luck! Gross, huh?

*Yes, the people who owned this house previously had a personal gardener. No wonder I can't keep up with the weeding.

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