Former Oneonta residents Rob Kamerling and Cynthia Marsh Kamerling had a lot to be thankful for this past Thanksgiving — family, friends, good health and a new community near Boulder, Colo.
The day of thanks, however, was marred by the knowledge that their former home in the town of Oneonta remains uninhabitable because of fumes from a fuel-oil leak more than a year ago.
And if that isn’t enough of a nightmare, the Kamerlings recently received correspondence from the state attorney general’s office demanding payment of about $32,000 by Dec. 7 for costs associated with cleanup of the leak.
If payment is not made by that date, the letter says, the state may seek penalties up to $25,000 per day, court costs, a collection fee of up to 22 percent of the outstanding debt and interest.
It’s not that the Kamerlings don’t want to pay for the cleanup; they just think there are other sides to the story that don’t seem right. So, they are examining their options.
Sitting down over coffee last week, Rob said they are trying to keep their problem in perspective. Some people lose their homes to hurricanes, floods and fire, he said, so he realizes their misfortune may seem minor in comparison. But he also understands that what happened to them could happen to anyone with a fuel-oil tank.
It all started about a year and a half ago when they moved to Colorado and put the 1880s farmhouse on Glen Drive they bought in 2005 on the sale market. By fall, Rob said, they had accepted an offer for purchase. That’s when the troubles began.
The Kamerlings agreed to allow the prospective buyers to move into the home while awaiting the formal closing. Shortly thereafter, the buyers had the fuel-oil tank in the home’s basement filled so they could heat the house. Then, about a week later, on Nov. 3, 2011, Rob said, he received an urgent call about a strong odor of fuel oil coming from the basement.