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Community rallies around first-time Wareham homeowners facing costly cleanup bill after oil leak

A GoFundMe page for the family has raised nearly $80,000.

Emmaline and Brian Proctor along with their young baby. Jonathan Wiggs /Globe Staff

A young Wareham family is footing the estimated $185,000 bill for the cleanup and replacement of their oil tank. The estimate does not include the costs they also will have to cover to remove contamination from underneath the house due to a gap in their insurance coverage.

Emmaline and Brian Proctor discovered an oil leak in their home when the smell of heating oil suddenly filled the air, according to reporting by The Boston Globe.

They were later told their 18-year-old oil tank that was supposed to last another 12 years was incredibly corroded, despite not looking damaged from the outside. They bought the $275,000 home just 16 months ago.

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On the day of the leak, Emmaline Proctor, who is pregnant, and their 10-month old baby immediately vacated the premises while Brian shut off the furnace and called 911.

By the time the Fire Department arrived to stop the leak with a wooden plug about 25 gallons of oil was spilled, and because of local environmental laws the Proctors will have to cover the cost of removing the contamination.

The family has no idea how they plan to pay for the estimated $185,000 bill, but a GoFundMe page created by a family member to help pay for cleanup specialists has already raised more than $75,000.

The process for removing the contamination involves lifting the home off its foundation in order to dig at least 10 feet underneath to test and remove contaminated ground. However, if the groundwater or neighbors’ properties were contaminated the cost is expected to increase dramatically.

“We’re considering all options, but there really aren’t any good ones,” said Brian.

Despite paying $1,000 a year for their home insurance policy, the Proctor’s were shocked to find out that their policy did cover oil leaks.

Less than 10 percent of homeowners who heat with oil are insured for losses caused by an oil leak, the Globe reports.

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Susan J. Crane, an attorney who has a history of representing homeowners with oil leaks, wrote that cleanup costs among her clients average more than $100,000 and a few paid more than $1 million.

All insurers are required to “make available” insurance to cover oil leaks. However, customers are not required to be informed and few homeowners request them, according to Crane.

“It’s just heartbreaking,” said Crane in an interview with the Globe. “Emotionally and financially, it’s devastating.”

The GoFundMe page created for the Proctor’s has raised almost $79,495 as of Feb. 23.

“We love our beautiful little house,” said Emmaline, sitting in the kitchen. “We were so proud of it. We saved and saved and did it all on our own. Now this.”

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