Responder Oakley Farnham, right, works with Republic Environmental contractors to remove oiled water from a church basement in December. Maine Department of Environmental Protection

AUGUSTA — State departments and county emergency management agencies are imploring residents and businesses whose oil systems suffered flooding damage to reach out to the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Maine DEP has a response division which helps homeowners and businesses secure systems at risk of leaking and to clean up spills after weather events. The division has 24 responders staged across the state to assist those affected by the Dec. 18 storm flooding. The program was launched in 1993 and covered spills retroactively to 1990.

Maine DEP is circulating a questionnaire to help people determine if they should call for help:

• Did your basement flood AND do you have oil heat, or did you before your current method of heating?

• Do you have an oil tank in your house, even if you don’t use it?

• Does your home or basement smell strongly like oil?


• Did your tank move, whether it leaked or not?

• Can you see oil on the water, either pink or a rainbow sheen?

• Look at the outside of the house for oil tank fill and vent pipes, are they crooked?

Anyone answering “yes” to one or more of the questions should contact 800-482-0777 or 211.

Responder Tiffany LeClair works to clean up a flooded oil impacted basement. Maine Department of Environmental Protection

Christopher Hopper, DEP Division of Response Services director, said visits to determine if services are needed are free of charge. The actual cleanup typically requires a $500 deductible, but the DEP will also waive the deductible for those on low or fixed income and no-interest payment plans can be arranged.

Hopper said information about DEP’s services through its response division is as important to spread now as it was in the days after the Dec. 18 storm. He said in the days leading up to Christmas, very few calls were coming in and for every call his division responded to, neighbors would approach responders telling them they were having the same issues.


“It’s gotten better, but … it was apparent the word wasn’t getting out despite (Maine) Emergency Management doing all they could,” Hopper said. “We just had some folks that, unless you went door to door, they weren’t going to get it.”

So, Deborah Lord, Maine Emergency Management Agency exercise officer, redoubled efforts Dec. 24 asking county EMAs to disperse the questionnaire to towns and anyone who could help publicize DEP’s services. She told directors the issues Hopper and his teams were having and, as an example, that six responses in Rumford on Dec. 23 led to five additional homeowners telling responders they did not know the program existed, she said.

“They were not aware DEP could help,” Lord said in the Dec. 24 email. “This has happened in Gardiner, Winslow, Augusta, etc. DEP has concerns that they had zero calls from Lewiston, Farmington, and many other towns that we know flooded.”

Since the storm, responders have received 103 calls from residences and businesses; 28 cleanups are completed and 75 are in the process of cleanup. Hopper said many of the in-progress sites have had petroleum affected material removed, ventilation and are being monitored for vapors. DEP’s Technical Services Division will usually take over when the bulk of cleanup is done to do the monitoring, Hopper said.

“There’s also a stigma for us to overcome, when people think, ‘oh, the government is here to regulate, they’re here to fine me,’” Hopper said. “We want to help people out, we just need the calls to respond to … It’s a tremendous benefit. The thing people need to understand (is) that this fund exists because … there’s a certain amount of money per barrel imported into Maine that goes into this fund for this purpose, and also to salaries and equipment for DEP response.”

Help for after-cleanup like tank or boiler replacement or repair may be available through DEP and through other local programs, Hopper said.

“We can make that nexus and give them contacts if that’s you know what’s determined in the end that needs to happen,” Hopper said.

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