After initially being told the $200,000 cleanup cost from a heating oil leak would not be covered by insurance, a Massachusetts family received some good news Thursday.
Emmaline and Brian Proctor, who bought their house in Wareham in 2020, have been searching for answers since oil poured out of their tank last month. Narragansett Bay Insurance Company told them their policy doesn't cover the damage under a total pollution exclusion clause.
"How it's written is that anything other than potable water is considered a pollutant," Brian Proctor explained. "So it's not just oil."
But Thursday, the insurance company notified the couple it would now cover the costs because of the potential environmental impact.
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"With the understanding that oil has seeped to depths close to a water table, I can confirm that the Narragansett Bay Insurance Company will immediately extend third party coverage in hopes of containing this pollution spill before it becomes a hazard to the public," Bob Khosropur, vice president of claims operations, wrote to the Proctors' attorney in a letter obtained by the NBC10 Boston Investigators. "We will afford liability coverage and reserve our rights to continuously evaluate all coverage and damage facts as they continue to develop, with the assistance of specialized engineers and technicians."
The Proctors expressed their gratitude in a statement Thursday.
"We are thrilled and beyond grateful for the outpouring support we've received from our community," the family said. "We thank the media and reporters for bringing light to the issue of homeowners insurance and we hope this pushes legislators to change the laws on this matter so no one else has to go through this."
In the last three years, the NBC10 Boston Investigators have reported on multiple incidents in which Massachusetts homeowners were left with costly cleanup bills after heating oil spills were not covered by insurance — a fact many, like the Proctors, have been stunned to learn.
"The biggest shock to us was that our insurance company wasn't going to cover this," Brian Proctor said earlier this week.
The couple in their early 20s want to get the word out to other homeowners to review their policy.
"Had we known that our policy didn't cover anything to do with oil, we would have changed our policy," said Emmaline Proctor. "Our home runs off oil."
More on heating oil spills
The Proctors recalled dealing with the leak on Jan. 7.
"I could smell it mid-morning. It just, all of a sudden, smelled like gasoline throughout the house. So Brian went down to the basement," Emmaline Proctor said. "He opened the door and just saw a flood of oil on the floor."
More than an inch of standing home heating oil had leaked from the tank, which had corroded inside.
"There's a wooden dowel that the fire department put in, and that's what permanently stopped the leak," Brian Proctor said.
The health hazard prompted the family to stay in a hotel for more than a week.