TIVERTON — The oil delivery truck pulled up to 1359 Main Road shortly before 5 p.m. on Friday, Oct.28 after dentists and patients at Tiverton’s Dutchman Dental had left for the day.
The operator hooked up to the fill pipe and, within a few minutes, had delivered 366 gallons of heating oil.
The problem — Dutchman Dental switched to gas heat years ago, hasn’t had an oil burner or tank since.
What followed has been a colossal mess for dental team, employees and patients alike.
“A disaster — absolutely. A big, giant mess,” said Dr. JP Van Riegenmorter of Dutchman Dental.
“And we’re not out of it yet but at least we can see the end out there on the horizon.” They are now talking about reopening in late May or by around June 1, making this a six to eight month ordeal.
When it poured in under pressure, the oil pushed in behind a wall of the dental business’s finished basement which houses office space and records storage.
The wall couldn’t contain the oil and it flowed out everywhere, eventually finding its way down through French drains into the soil beneath.
“They (Andy Barber’s Excavating) had to jackhammer through the cellar floor and dig out the oil soaked soil beneath to a depth of 12 feet.” The soil in Tiverton is glacial till, he said, and anything spilled on it “just sinks right in.”
Although the oil is not toxic, “it smelled really bad and gets into everything.”
Cleanup work of this sort must be done with care and by the book. It has involved Fire Department, Building Department, state Department of Environmental Management … “A long list.”
A bright spot — and there have been a few — is that by coincidence they had just moved many important records to the other side of the basement and most were saved.
A first order of business was to find a way to take care of patients. Dutchman Dental has another office in Wakefield and schedules were shuffled to make room for dentists and patients there.
“The patients have been wonderful about it but Wakefield is a haul from here.”
The next bright spot came courtesy of Dr. Van Regenmorter’s uncle, Dr. Allen Lorenz who runs an orthodontic practice out of 551 Rock St., Fall River. He happened to have three open office spaces and invited his displaced nephew and crew in.
“He’s a great guy all the way around” and the new arrangement has been an immense help. “I like to say that after the asteroid hit, the stars have been lining up pretty well.”
Still, space isn’t what it used to be and a few of the 18 employees have been let go while the business gets back on its feet.
As for harboring ill will for the oil delivery company, “I understand that accidents happen,” although he is still perplexed that the delivery man didn’t notice that the residence he was supposed to be delivering to was actually a business with big sign and 11-car parking lot.
“The oil company owner is a great guy — we are all going to live and learn … There is no bad guy in this whole episode — mistakes happen.” He added, “We are all going to live and work in this village and it’s important to get along.”
There are big costs involved of course — the dentist said the final tally isn’t yet known yet … “There are insurance companies involved.”
As often when bad things happen, “The biggest bright spot has been the support we’ve received along the way … Our patients have been super supportive, (Fire) Chief Lloyd has been a great help …
“I’m also grateful for lessons learned in a twisted sort of way.
For instance, “I would now tell anyone, if you have an old, unused fuel pipe on your building, get rid of it … don’t just block it off.” Just whose responsibility it is to do that after a heating system is removed remains unclear, he said — “Just be sure that it is gone.”