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Ryan Bakken, Forum News Service, Published December 04 2013

A basement full of oil: Fuel oil delivered to wrong home in Northwood with disastrous results

NORTHWOOD, N.D. - On Monday afternoon, with winter looming, 191 gallons of fuel oil were delivered to 307 Adam St. S. in Northwood.

A problem was that the oil was supposed to be delivered to 308 Adam St. S. A bigger problem was that the home at 307 Adam had a pipe for fuel on the outside, but not a fuel tank on the inside.

The result was 191 gallons of fuel oil being pumped into the finished basement of the 1939-built home of Chad and Ryndee Veer and their three children.

“The outside pipe is imbedded in the concrete and you can’t remove it,” Chad Veer said. “I never thought an incident like this could happen because someone doesn’t fill your fuel tank unless you order it.”

Roger Korsmo, manager of fuel-oil supplier Northwood Oil Co-op, declined comment.

No fines

Veer, a farmer, said the cooperative has been helpful, such as setting up his family with meals at a local restaurant and providing fuel for a heater for their home. The Veers are living in an apartment usually occupied by Ryndee’s relatives who live in Texas during the winter.

The fuel oil would have been several feet high in a tightly sealed basement, but Veer said most of it seeped into the ground through a sump hole, a no-longer-used well and cracks in the foundation. And, he added, the fuel oil soaked 6 to 12 inches high on the drywall.

Dave Cameron, an environmental scientist with the North Dakota Health Department, said he remembers at least one similar incident during his 30 years on the job.

The spill was listed on the health department’s new spill information web site, which just went live.

There will not be a fine.

“There’s a big difference between making a mistake and willfully spilling oil on the ground,” Cameron said. “They’re doing due diligence as far as helping remedy the error.”

Ruined house?

Citing the recovery of flooded homes, Cameron said homes with oil spills are not automatically condemned. Workers have been tearing out the soaked carpet, stripping contaminated walls and other cleanup chores, Cameron said.

Veer is not sure of the dollar amount of the damage. And, he is skeptical of his family being able to return to their home of four years.

“I honestly don’t think they can get rid of that much fuel smell,” he said. “Without ventilation, you can’t go into the house for more than 20, 30 minutes without getting a headache.”

Also damaged were furniture, a gun cabinet, shelving, toys, power tools, clothing and the hockey equipment of sons Landyn, 6, and Alec, 4.

“The hockey equipment is something we need to get replaced soon because we have games Saturday and Sunday,” said Veer, who coaches his sons.

“Hopefully, my kids don’t miss hockey because that’s the highlight of their day,” he said.