The oil field
April 14, 2010 4:16 PM   Subscribe

Will my parents be able to get any compensation due to a neighbour's oil leak?

My parents live in the Devonshire countryside here in the UK. A few years ago they purchased a small plot of land near their house and turned it into a vegetable garden.

It's wonderful being able to go back and have nice fresh, organic vegetables that I know my parents have lovingly tended to and harvested themselves, and they both love being in the fresh air and growing greenery.

The problem is that a couple of months ago their neighbour's heating oil tank sprang a leak, and gallons of Kerosene spilled out. It's seeped into the ground, and gone directly underneath the vegetable garden. It's a few feet down, but according to the Environmental Health chaps it can be drawn up by the veg and there's a small chance that any produce eaten could cause cancer. Apparently it will take two to three years before it's safe to garden again.

My parents - especially my mum - are devastated by this. Mum pointed out that it's the first year of her adult life where she won't be able to do any gardening. She's retired, and the garden was a massive part of her life, so she's understandably stressed and depressed about the situation.

As compensation, my parents are asking for a vegetable box to be delivered once a week to make up for the lost produce. But could they get anything more? It's not like they were making money from the garden, but for them it was a way of life.
posted by hnnrs to Law & Government (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't understand what kind of recourse you are looking for. Do you mean are they legally entitled to seek more compensation? Or do you mean within the reasonable realm of human interaction?

Your parents can still garden, they just can't eat their produce. Why don't they convert to a flower garden for a few years? It is good to rotate what you grow every few years anyway to allow the soil to turn over and regenerate the minerals that are depleted. Then your mother can still have her hobby.

If the neighbors have already agreed to pay for the produce delivery, then they have been made whole, so to speak. Seeking anything further seems spiteful; its not as if the neighbors were purposely poisoning the garden.
posted by whodatninja at 4:34 PM on April 14, 2010 [2 favorites]

Do they have community gardens in the area where they could lease a plot for a few years, or even start such a group themselves?
posted by Yorrick at 4:35 PM on April 14, 2010

The proper thing to do is dig up and replace all the contaminated the soil. That really is the only solution. I think your parents would probably have to declare contamination like this whenever they sell the home, so until it's dealt with, it's kind of hanging over them.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:42 PM on April 14, 2010

...they need to make inquiries about the neighbour's liability insurance.
posted by bonobothegreat at 4:44 PM on April 14, 2010

Yeah, agreed, vegetable box is not enough. Oil contaminated soil in the US is a pretty big deal, and usually has to be dug up and replaced, or mitigated in some other way. A weekly vegetable box is not enough compensation. You probably want to hire an environmental engineer and a lawyer to talk about your options.
posted by electroboy at 4:46 PM on April 14, 2010

Best answer: I'll start with the boilerplate: I don't live in the UK, I'm not a lawyer or solicitor, blah, blah...

OK. I think your parents need to talk to the "Environmental Health chaps" again and see if soil remediation is required. These crews remove all the contaminated soil. The neighbor's homeowners insurance should cover this. If the environmental folks say the spill isn't bad enough to require this, your parents could plant some soil building plants like clover, and turn it under in the fall. And they could still get some fresh veggies using pots, or bigger containers like the Earthtainer.
posted by Marky at 5:07 PM on April 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, here's an interesting article from the New York Times on how some plants, like spinach, can clean lead from the soil. (Obviously, the spinach must not be consumed.) No idea if spinach can leach heating oil, but I bet there are plants that can.
posted by J-Train at 5:31 PM on April 14, 2010

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