The oil spill from the gas station on the top of the hill was now a serious problem. The state had sniffed gasoline vapors running down the edge of my property along the street line – right along the line of the recent new natural gas line. They were positive it had to be seeping across our property, and we would soon have it in our home.
Our home was the oldest in the area, having been built in 1812. No other home had previously occupied the land. There was a 200-year-old pine tree on the property. Obviously, the land around our home had not been disturbed by man since the last ice age had come through upstate New York. It was inconceivable to me that the gas would be coming “through” the hard-packed soil when so much development and new excavation had taken place all around us.
At the next neighborhood meeting, I presented to the DEC engineers the possibility that the gas was following the recent sewer-line extension from the neighborhood past the gas station, and gasoline vapors had entered their homes through the laterals. The gas vapors found in front of my home had most likely come down the line of the recent natural-gas pipe installation.
The engineers from the state knew nothing of these recent construction projects after several months of tearing up property and causing panic. It was now autumn, and mounds of dirt had yet to be replaced in the property behind us. Following the meeting, neighbors who had been shunning us came over and admitted that I had been right in keeping the state off my property from the beginning. No gasoline had yet been found in all the soil torn up on their property. The logic of my argument was becoming apparent to all.
The soil was all now being replaced in the yards, and monitoring wells were being placed around the area to determine how far the gasoline had spread. After serious negotiations, we finally let the DEC place a monitoring well in our yard that never showed any sign of gasoline.
I was appointed spokesman for the neighborhood. Our first order of business was to go to the town taxing authority, and we all got a 30% reduction in our taxes due to our property being “contaminated” with gasoline for as long as the state kept monitoring wells on our property.
The engineers from the DEC had acted irresponsibly. If these engineers were not from the state but from the oil company, civil lawsuits would have resulted. A lawsuit was in fact filed against the company that owned the station, which was eventually settled with only a minor payout.
Government DEC engineers, acting without restraint or regard for the citizens for whom they worked, caused much harm to both the citizens and their cause. As a private company, this arrogance over personal property rights would never have been permitted.