Guide Site Cleanup for Homeowners

Dealing with a spill or contamination problem on your property can be particularly difficult and stressful for homeowners. Understanding the rules, learning all the new terms and procedures, and working through the system can be overwhelming at times. The following series of explanations, guidelines, recommendations, and tips are provided to help you through the process of preventing and cleaning up spills on your property.

Contamination at Your Home or Business?

Once you've had a spill, or observed contamination in the environment, certain actions are necessary. General advice for the most common contamination scenarios are provided in the guidance below.

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Reduced Fees

36 Homeowners Self-Certified for Lower Fees in 2016

Some homeowners qualify for reduced permit and annual compliance fees. Qualifying homeowners must submit a certification on a MassDEP approved form to realize the reduction in fees.

The definition of "homeowner" (for this purpose) comes from the Timely Action Schedule and Fee Provisions (310 CMR 4.02): 

A Homeowner is an owner occupant of a residential one to four family structure who has provided a written certification on a Department approved form and whose structure has been used exclusively as a one to four family residence throughout his or her ownership, where the owner's unit is the owner's principal residence for 6 or more months of the year and the owner is conducting response actions at the residence in response to a release of oil.

Check Your Insurance Coverage

Since 2010, Massachusetts law mandates that insurance companies offer coverage for leaks from oil  heat systems and that homeowners install specific leak-prevention systems (either an oil safety valve or an oil supply line with protective sleeve).   Most homeowner policies do not currently include such coverage, leaving many to pay for costly cleanups out of their own pocket. The insurance is an optional purchase.

The Fact Sheet below describes what you can do to qualify for and purchase this insurance.

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Dealing with Heating Oil Spills

One of the most common environmental problems a homeowner may encounter is a leaking heating fuel tank.  Heating oil may be stored in underground storage tanks (USTs) adjacent to a home, or in above-ground storage tanks (ASTs) in a basement or garage.

If a tank leaks, the oil may move through the ground and into the groundwater, spreading onto neighboring properties.  Leaking oil can contaminate indoor air and threatening nearby drinking water wells.

Because leaking heating oil tanks are so common, MassDEP has prepared several guidance documents to help homeowners through the cleanup process.

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Sampling and Interpreting Results

An important part of the site cleanup process involves looking for contamination on a property - sampling the air water or soil to find out what pollutants may be present.

MassDEP has prepared a series of fact sheets on site contamination, health concerns and sampling air, water and soil for potential pollutants.  While this information was developed with homeowners in mind, they may be helpful for anyone with questions or concerns about contamination in the environment.

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Image credits:  Boston Light (Paul Locke)

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