Since March 27 of this year, the Gormans of McFarlan Road have been living in a hotel on Route 1 because their heating oil company filled their water well with 100 gallons of oil.That's the old news, and it was only the beginning of the Gorman's nightmare. Halfway through remediating the oil contamination, a contractor who was removing oil-drenched dirt alongside and under the Gorman's home misjudged his excavation, resulting in severe structural damage to the home.
The Gormans' likely return date to their home is not even on this year's calendar. And their personal and financial costs due to the mistakes of others could go through the roof.
Although Jim and Lynn Gorman cannot praise the motel staff enough, they say living in a motel room has become tedious and empty; they simply want to cook their own meals, make their own coffee, and sleep in their own beds. Lynn Gorman said, "Until you live through it, you can't imagine what it's like."
While remediation workers traipsed through the house, the Gormans put all their clothing and household goods in two storage containers next to their house. Lynn Gorman said, "Our son is getting married in Florida soon, and I don't even know where to begin looking for clothes for the wedding or what shape they will be in. I suppose they are somewhere in those containers," as she motioned to the side yard.
As THE KENNETT PAPER reported in March, the oil-contaminated well and the associated contamination of pipes, appliances, walls, soil, and even the atmosphere of the house have been a nightmare for the Gormans. But as bad as that one mistake was, the rest of the story could very well be worse.
The Gormans' house is now coming apart at the seams, literally. As a result of the excavation snafu, cracks have opened up where the north side wall is detaching itself from the front and rear walls of the house. And Jim Gorman has the photographic record of how and why it is happening. Wooden braces are now in place, but Jim Gorman said, "It's only a matter of time before those boards snap like match sticks."
The cracks first appeared after an environmental remediation contractor removed too much fouled dirt and cinderblock foundation from under the house without adequate support for the above-ground structure. By then, however, it was too late and the north wall's separation was past the point of no return. It's clear now that the wall must be completely demolished and rebuilt. Still, Jim Gorman uses calipers to measure weekly how far the separation has progressed.
If not for this structural catastrophe, the Gormans believe the remediation contractors would have sufficiently cleaned up the site and life might have become nearly normal again for the family. But Lynn Gorman said, "After the house was damaged, little has been done by anybody. I don't understand it." And if watching your home fall apart, centimeter by centimeter, isn't disheartening enough, the Gorman's are also dealing with an insurance company that is months behind on paying the family's living expenses and periodically threatens to cut the family off from its support. Often, the Gormans meet at their home after work, watch the sunset from the front deck, and wonder what the purpose of insurance is if not to provide financial protection during life's tragedies.
The scene at the Gormans' home where a well once existed under a porch does not look livable. According to Jim Gorman, the large depression that remains is filled with contaminated soil due to the original oil blunder and compounded by a pneumatic hose rupture during excavation work that sprayed fluid everywhere. Gorman's crisp photographs show that the depression turns into an oil-slicked mini-pond every time it rains. Various electrical cords and connections for high voltage pumping equipment fill the depression and are precariously open to the elements.
With the structural damage in full view and the manner in which contractors have left the site, Gorman wonders why state and county authorities charged with oversight have been so conspicuously absent. As an afterthought, Gorman said, "Oh, yeah, and then there's the septic field behind the house. They took soil samples and showed it was contaminated, too."