Heating oil misdelivery forces family out of home for months

OBERLIN, Pa. (WHTM) – It was almost eight months ago that Courtney Levengood pulled into the driveway of her Oberlin home and found something she was not expecting.

“I saw an oil truck there and didn’t think much of it at first,” she said.

What the driver of that truck said next changed everything.

“He apologized and said he made a delivery to the wrong address and gave me the company’s information saying, ‘They will give you a good price on the oil.’ I looked at him really confused because we do not have oil heat, we have gas heat. He said, ‘You have to use oil for something because you have the intake valve there,’ and he said, ‘You have a tank, right?’ I told him we didn’t and he looked a little concerned. He followed me to the door, and as soon as I unlocked the door, the smell hit me like a brick wall,” Levengood said.

One-hundred gallons of oil had been pumped onto the Levengoods’ basement floor. When they bought the home 15 years ago, it was already converted to gas heat and the oil tank had been removed, but the fill pipe outside was not removed.

The Levengoods say when they bought the home, it passed inspection with the pipe, and it wasn’t until 2006 that new building codes required that unused fill pipes be removed.

“I believe [the owner of Service Oil Company] did apologize a bit to my husband, but in the same breath pretty much insinuated this was partially our fault because the fill pipe was still there,” Levengood said.

The mistaken delivery forced the Levengoods and their two young daughters out of their home.

“Your eyes watered, your nose burned, it was just that strong,” Levengood said.

They family moved from hotel to hotel for four months.

“We never ordered any oil. We found the delivery ticket they had. They were looking for 40 South Harrisburg Street in Steelton and this is 24 South Harrisburg Street in Oberlin,” Carl Levengood said. “It could have taken four seconds to look between the pipe and the number on the house and it could have saved us four months of a nightmare.”

Service Oil Company sent a cleanup crew right away, but the when ABC27 visited the home in May, four months after the delivery mistake, the Levengoods felt the company was dragging its feet on other improvements.

“This pipe installed in the basement is supposed to be what brings out the vapors. There is supposed to be a motor and a fan on here, but they didn’t hook it up,” Carl Levengood said.

“You just get frustrated and angry,” Courtney Levengood said. “Why can’t [the company] just step up, help us out here, and do the right thing?”

The Levengoods were asking Service Oil Company to purchase their house at its appraised price so they could purchase another home and move on with their lives.

Four months after their first interview with ABC27, the Levengood family is back in their home.

“The update is we have reached a settlement with Service Oil Company. We decided we had to move on with our lives,” Carl Levengood said.

“Use us as a cautionary tale,” Courtney Levengood said. “If you are thinking about switching from oil to gas, do your research and make sure that everything is properly removed and sealed. I am just glad that, for the most part, it is over and we can start moving on with our lives.”

Service Oil Company president Raphael Aronson released the following statement:

“Service Oil made a misaddressed delivery to 24 S. Harrisburg Street in Oberlin resulting in a serious oil spill in the basement of the residence. The reason that this misdelivery resulted in a spill was that the oil tank had been removed but the fill pipe left in. There is no way to know who was ultimately responsible for this mistake. It seems to us that it should have been picked up by the home inspector when the home was purchased.

I would like to tell you how Service Oil responded to the spill. Our driver recognized the problem when the homeowner arrived at the house and notified our office. We recognized our responsibility and immediately dispatched technicians with oil dry to soak up as much of the oil as possible. I personally went over to the house, apologized to the homeowner and assured him that we would take all steps necessary to address the problem. I then had the office manager call the homeowner to arrange for housing for the family until the house could be cleaned. We then reported the spill to our insurance carrier, Federated Insurance, who took over management of the cleanup process. Federated is a large insurance company specializing in the petroleum industry and is well positioned to address this type of problem.

We are well aware of the difficulties this type of spill caused the Levengoods and apologize for all of the problems that it caused them. We do think, however, that it was resolved as quickly and as well as possible. I have served as president of Service Oil for over 55 years and to the best of my memory, this is the first spill of this type that we ever had. During this period we have made well over half a million deliveries. We think that one bad spill in half a million deliveries is a remarkably good safety record.

With the number of oil to gas conversions, I think Channel 27 would be doing a service to the community by warning them of the problem resulting from improper removal of oil tanks.”

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