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Family 'Surviving,' But Ill After Return to Oil-Soaked Home

Local companies have stepped up to help the family, which says it will seek a new law that would force companies to rebuilt a house if they don't solve environmental disasters they caused.

The temporary mobile home is removed from the lawn of the oil-soaked 21 Martin Ave. home belonging to the Demers family. [Courtesy of the Demers family]
The temporary mobile home is removed from the lawn of the oil-soaked 21 Martin Ave. home belonging to the Demers family. [Courtesy of the Demers family]
The Demers family recently moved back into their home for the first time since more than 200 gallons of home heating oil flooded their basement seven years ago.

The occasion was far from welcomed as it came after the town ordered them to vacate the temporary mobile home installed on the property, although the family is optimistic that an end may be in sight to the continued problems with their still-damaged home.

Michael Demers said two companies have offered to assist him, his 69-year-old mother Suzanne, and his 68-year-old stepfather Skip Troisi in rebuilding the basement and replacing the foundation of 21 Martin Ave.

He said this work — along with his installation of another vapor barrier layer — will help rid their home of "overwhelmingly" strong oil smells that still make stepping foot in the once-finished basement or kitchen unbearable.

"We're surviving," said Michael Demers. "I’m not too happy about the end results and my poor mother suffering all these years. She’s worried absolutely sick about everything. I'm trying to get some light at the end of the tunnel and get something positive to happen and get some companies involved."

Michael Demers said he's looking for other individuals to help supply the materials needed to rebuild the foundation and replace the rooms in the basement, which has been gutted and been heavily treated to remove mold.

The family can't afford the materials themselves because the spill and the failed lawsuit against Haffner's Oil — the Lawrence, Mass., company the family claims was responsible for the spill because an employee overfilled the tank — and three other parties left them hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

Because of this, Suzanne Demers appeared in bankruptcy court in Manchester on Tuesday. She must wait "a couple of months" for a decision, according to her son.

If not for the debt, the family has said it would raze and rebuild the home rather than continue to poor large sums of money into it to restore it.

Michael Demers said he has spent much of the last week at their home up in his room due to the fan and window that help circulate fresh air into his room, while Suzanne Demers has broken out in hives and has been "really sick" due to the oil fumes since they moved back into the house on Jan. 17. 

While Suzanne said she's "happy to be home" and is thankful to Pope Housing for providing their mobile home for the past four years, she just wants everything "to be back to normal."

"It's been hard for [the] last 4 years living in a trailer knowing 15 feet away is my home," said Suzanne in an e-mail. "[Seven] years is a long, long time."

Once the home is restored, Michael Demers said he will focus his efforts on strengthening laws to ensure other New Hampshire homeowners — as well as nearby residents whose health could be jeopardized by wetland contamination like the possible issues caused by this Martin Avenue spill — don't face a similar struggle.

"When an oil company deemed responsible for spilling on a property like Haffner's was, if they don't get the home [fully mitigated and cleaned] within a three-month period, I think this new law should saw they must rebuild this home," said Michael Demers.

The Demers family plans to continue its boycott campaign against the following entities: Haffner's; Haffner's insurance company, Acadia Insurance Company, of Bedford; and two companies involved in the cleanup, Enpro Services Inc., of Newburyport, Mass., and Ambrose Environmental Management Inc., of Danvers, Mass.

More information about the efforts to clean the home, as well as information about how to help the family, can be found on the Demerses' website.

Anyone interested in being part of this family's home makeover campaign for can contact Michael Demers at Michael.d92@gmail.comor at (603) 912-5269.


[Editor's note: A previous article stated that the Eagle-Tribune reported that the Demerses have rebuilt their basement. The basement hasn't yet been rebuilt, according to Michael Demers.]
Michael February 27, 2014 at 06:19 PM
February 27, 2014 Dear readers, supporters and friends please visit www.haffnersoilspill.com for latest information and back story. We are looking for local contractors specializing in foundation replacement, chimney repair, electricians, plumbers, painters, carpenters, building suppliers and volunteers interested in being part of 2014 Home Makeover for this 69 year old woman, who has been displaced for nearly 7 years and is now faced with bankruptcy as a result of this oil spill and cleanup disaster. Over the last 7 months we have gutted the entire basement, prepped and encapsulated the basement ceiling, and replaced insulation, installed a new exterior oil tank, fuel line and new enclosure, repaired all water pipes, installed temporary venting system ->[which you can smell oil coming from] and vapor barrier in basement and remediated all mold from the entire home. Her once finished basement is not safe clean or livable at this time and continues to smell of fuel oil. We are replacing the foundation of the home and restoring her basement, not rebuilding this home. We want to pin up this home and remove its oil impacted foundation and the remaining contamination and replace the soil and install a permanent venting system and vapor barrier below it. To eliminate the hazardous fuel vapors from entering the living space of the home. Those interested in being a part of this Home Makeover Campaign for Mom, please send email to Michael.d92@gmail.com or call 1-603-912-5269 No one should have to smell fuel oil in their home 7 years later after an oil spill and after the [NHDES listed Responsible Party] -> Haffner's Oil Company spilled it and it's Insurer ->Acadia Insurance Company -> spent over $400,000 to clean it to a so called NH State Standard level -> While, it's hired cleanup contractors-> Enpro Services Inc. and Ambrose Environmental Management Inc. took over 14 months to complete this supposed cleanup! Thank you, for your support! The Demers Family.

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