STONINGTON, Maine — A Stonington man lost up to 200 gallons of heating fuel after someone cut a copper line attached to his oil tank, triggering a police investigation and state cleanup effort.
The man called police around 2:45 p.m. Dec. 1 to report that the 270-gallon kerosene tank at his home on Cemetery Drive had been vandalized, according to reports from Hancock County Sheriff’s Office and Maine Department of Environmental Protection.
When deputies arrived, they saw that a copper supply line had been cut, causing gallons of kerosene to gush onto the ground and into the building’s root cellar.
“We think the tank was full beforehand, and about 30 or 40 gallons were recovered from the tank,” said Samantha DePoy-Warren, a spokesmen for Maine DEP. “Based on our estimations, we think approximately 200 gallons were spilled.” The sheriff’s department estimated that about 80 gallons were spilled.
The DEP was on-site for cleanup Saturday, Sunday and Monday, and check-ups will likely be necessary in the coming weeks, DePoy-Warren said. A lot of the fuel leaked into the root cellar, although a sump pump released some of the fuel into the backyard.
A cleanup team padded up as much oil as they could in the basement, and put down absorbent pads to gather the rest. Measures were taken to absorb kerosene vapors, contaminated soil was removed and the cleanup team conducted tests of nearby wells to ensure no drinking water was contaminated.
Despite the large amount of fuel spilled, the effect to the environment was minimal, DePoy-Warren said.
“It doesn’t seem like there’s much of an environmental impact,” she said. “But certainly, it’s a great inconvenience for the owner.”
DePoy-Warren said the DEP responds to nearly 3,000 spills per year, many of which are home heating-oil spills. An increasing number of those are caused by thieves cutting and stealing copper supply lines, she said.
“When people think of oil spill response, they think of big spills like BP,” she said. “But most are these smaller incidents.”
DePoy-Warren didn’t have an estimate for the cost of the cleanup, but said the state picks up some of the cost of incidents such as these, as long as they are reported in a timely manner.
According to the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office, the investigation into who cut the copper supply line is ongoing.
Follow Mario Moretto on Twitter at @riocarmine.