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Troubling Backyard Oil Spill Turns Long Island Couple’s Lives Upside-Down

Legal Battle Waged To Make Sure 1,000 Gallons Finally Removed, House Rebuilt

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LIDO BEACH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Imagine having to constantly breathe in the smell of oil inside your home. That’s what one Long Island family says they’ve had to endure for years, while waging an endless legal battle to have the oil removed and their home rebuilt.

When Steve Kritzberg and Lynn Eskanazi dig in their backyard, they find something in the soil that’s not exactly native to Long Island — home heating oil that flooded the crawl space of their Lido Beach home – eight years ago.

“I see it percolating up from the cracks in the cement slab, and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, we’re in trouble,’” Kritzberg told CBS 2’s Carolyn Gusoff on Tuesday.

They had no idea then how much trouble. Their experts determined the 1,000 gallons of oil came from a neighbor’s leaking oil tank. A legal battle is still being waged with their neighbor’s insurance companies. Meanwhile, they’ve had to move out of their home repeatedly because of the stench.

“It’s awful. You walk into the house and it smells so bad that you’re thinking ‘Oh my God, this is going to kill us. I gotta get out of here,’” Eskanazi said.

They want the contaminated soil — 10 feet deep — removed and the house rebuilt. Lawyers and experts have cost them more than $1 million.

“Including what money we had for our kids’ college funds. My parents spent their entire retirement fund,” Eskanazi said.

A settlement was finally reached a year ago, but now the couple says the insurance companies have reneged, claiming the oil is going away by itself. However, their expert, a geologist said, this spill isn’t going anywhere.

“We also say Mother Nature will take care of it, but it’s presently in suck high concentration, Mother Nature can’t do anything with it,” said James DeMartinis of Holzmacher Engineering.

“It reeks of fuel oil, so it’s still there,” Kritzberg said.

Neither Beacon nor Hanover insurance companies would comment on what the hold-up is, but even if they pay for the clean-up and rebuilding, Kritzberg and Eskanazi must return to court to try to recoup their more than $1 million in legal fees.

Late Tuesday, the Hanover Insurance group said it has made very reasonable offers to remediate the property. It continues to try to reach an agreement.

You can find out if the house you’re living in has ever had an oil spill on the New York State Department of Environmental Conservations “Spills” Registry.

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