There are never really any dull moments around the farm — and most of the moments are quite wonderful.
But not so this past week, as an old fuel oil tank was removed and the much-feared oil spill discovered. Yes, we actually have an official “spill number” that must be rectified before this nasty blot can be removed from our record. I’ve spent the better part of this week beginning to understand what employees of BP have been feeling. Or at least what I hope they’ve been feeling.
I didn’t personally or intentionally leak processed oil into the soil of our precious Earth, of course. And yet … my lifestyle has made this kind of mess (dare I say disaster) possible. For that, I feel the ache of guilt, shame, sorrow. I also feel the heavy burden of remediating the problem.
Even if the government weren’t breathing down our necks for our paperwork failures (and they are), even if the wonderful folks who have worked tirelessly to determine the extent of the contamination didn’t want to get paid (and they do), even if there were no laws requiring that we somehow fix this mess — still we would want to rectify this insult, not only on our “record”, but to the body of our dear Mother Earth.
How could we do anything less?
Some fifty-odd years ago, we bought lovely property here in Brewster. Acres of woodland and valley, nestled on the west side of Joe’s Hill. Included in that parcel was this tank—able to store 1500 gallons of fuel to keep our pipes thawed and our bodies warm. We have enjoyed those privileges for a very long time.
I have no idea how it happened that we didn’t know about registering—and therefore inspecting—this tank. I don’t know (no one does, actually) just what happened to the tank—a leaky seam, perhaps?—but leak it did, and now we have to step up to our obligation for the destruction that ensued. Whatever happened, this tank leaked processed oil in quantities that have damaged the soil. A lot.
Something like 80 to 100 yards of contaminated soil have been removed and sent off for “treatment and disposal”. There is a hole large enough to hide a decent-sized whale just outside our great room window. A fair amount of driveway is missing, as is one of our sidewalks. Plants large (a pink weigela favored by hummingbirds) and small (my just-beginning-to-thrive giant hosta) have disappeared. The school yard is piled with the last of the contaminated soil to be removed and a large pile of ex-driveway and sidewalk concrete.
Frankly, it’s a mess around here.
And we haven’t even gotten the bill yet, which is going to hurt I’m sure.
OK, so for a group who is committed to healthy living and environmental responsibility, this is indeed a disaster. And it’s a disaster for us financially, too. But at the proverbial end of the day, we’ll be able to sleep because we faced our responsibilities and somehow found a way to meet our obligations.
We can do no less, and if we can possibly do more, we will.