The Home Heating Oil, #2, Spill and a Thief

A muddy Spring day,
an aging spill response supervisor,
my environmental company assigned
me to assess a 400-gallon Heating Oil spill
into private property, Newfoundland, PA.
A nice drive through crop fields,
occasional sightings of cows and horses,
I walked into Charlotte Lent’s backyard,
unkempt, she’s widowed, savings slim,
forced to work in order to keep taxes
and home expenses paid for,
Charlotte’s house fallen to disrepair.

Upon the old home’s rear concrete slab
sat two (manifolded) fuel storage tanks,
one with an apparent hole in bottom steel,
passageway for Heating Oil to run through
a pipeline projecting from concrete slab
and into a large tract of otherwise pristine soil,
and Charlotte’s drinking water well.

Looking at the spill site, with horror,
I calculated remedial work plans
and hefty costs required to help
Charlotte get out of crisis, with honor…,
for as the spill’s “Responsible Party,”
she was accountable to
PA Dept. of Environmental Protection’s
sacred “Clean Stream Laws,”
and doubtless had no “deep pockets”
like Marcellus Shale natural gas drillers
who, on daily basis, pumped fracking chemicals
into land once as pristine as Charlotte’s.

Quickly, I saw worry in Charlotte’s eyes.
She had good reason, Home Heating Oil
pooled upon lawn, rain threatened to
force migration into neighbor’s property.
Cleanup costs would crash what little
the widow had – re-mortgaging old house,
taking on unpardonable loans, unavoidable options.
200 feet down gradient from clothesline,
I saw a bird land upon Charlotte’s lawn,
it flapped wings as if to shed oil stain,
flew away into Newfoundland pure sky.

I tried comforting Charlotte, best I could.
Told her that my company would soon produce
a price quotation for remediating the oil spill.
Charlotte wore apron, hair tied into bun,
she intently listened, wrote down mailing address,
and offered a smile, sincere “thanks”
maybe trust in my words.

Prior to departing scene,
I broke my company strict rules.
My job was to merely assess what happened,
return to base, generate a price proposal,
and solicit customer official signature
on company “Work Authorization.”
For the sake of Charlotte’s property and finances,
I became a THIEF, a robber of company materials!
I grabbed oil absorbent pads and boom
from out of company pick-up truck, rear,
and started to deploy absorbent materials
where I considered most temporarily useful.

Oil absorbent “boom” line at concrete slab edge,
absorbent pads distributed upon lawn surfaces
most susceptible to migration and expected rainfall.
Huff, puff…, alone, I worked hard, for “nothing,”
and figured my astute company officials
would never learn how I gave away materials
to Charlotte that would never be “Billable.”
Upon task completion, a rabbit flight across oily land,
she gave thanks for kindness bestowed,
and come March 4, 2014, my good company
finally caught-up with the running spiller
of their money, and fired me.

Charles Orloski lives in Taylor, Pa. He can be reached at: . Read other articles by Charles.