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Botched oil theft expected to cost church more than $100,000by Adam Jacobs
Wallace Langille and Stewart Hirtle oversee the digging up of the St. Martin’s Anglican Church driveway following a suspected oil theft gone wrong.
MARTINS RIVER — It was a $300 suspected attempted theft that turned into a $100,000-plus bill for the victims.
By all accounts it was a normal Tuesday morning at St. Martin’s Anglican Church, which is located across the street from the Martins River volunteer fire department.
“At nine o’clock I came in to let the women in to start baking cookies,” said building superintendent Wallace Langille. “And when I opened the door here that was it. Smell. I smelled oil. I figured something happened to the tank.”
He was right, of course.
The day was October 2. Just four days earlier the church had a brand-new fibreglass oil tank installed just outside the church. The tank was about half full.
Mr. Langille went outside to take a look. What he found was worse than he could have imagined.
“The line was broken, cut, whatever you want to call it, and the oil was seeping out for all it was worth,” said Deputy Fire Chief Stewart Hirtle.
The valve that controls the oil flow from the tank to the furnace was shut off. But it was too late.
“By that time the half a tank of oil was gone,” he said. “And the smell … .”
The RCMP has been called in to investigate the incident, one Mr. Hirtle calls a theft gone wrong.
“I think somebody was trying to steal the oil. But, because we’re so close to the trail here I think they got scared and chased off.”
Just over two weeks later the smell has subsided some. It’s still quite evident from inside the church kitchen, which is in the basement, and from the parking lot behind the church, but not nearly as strong as when it happened.
Thankfully, the brand-new tank wasn’t damaged. Unfortunately, just about everything else was.
The oil had seeped underneath the foundation, underneath the parking lot and just about everywhere else on the back of the church property.
A specialized engineering team had to be called in to clean it all up.
Holes have been cut and drilled inside the basement to aerate the smell. It’s all going to have to be dug up and replaced. There is a gaping hole where much of the parking used to be. That too will need to be replaced.
“All that fill needs to be sent to Queens County to be treated,” Mr. Hirtle said. “It’s a huge expense. It will chew up every cent of insurance we have.”
That leaves the church with a bill of about $100,000 and a very sour taste.
“Was it worth it?” Mr. Hirtle asked. “For us, no. Was it worth it for the thieves? I have no idea. The only thing I can say is God is going to punish them one way or the other.”
There is a faint glimmer of hope in the case.
Mr. Hirtle said a witness is reported as having seen a truck in the parking lot with some kind of tank mounted on the back.
“He didn’t think anything of it at the time. But somebody saw something.”
That piece of information has been passed onto the police.
In the meantime, the cleanup goes on.
There is a new reverend in the community. He was scheduled to host his first service, the Thanksgiving service, in the church the Sunday following the incident.
That had to be cancelled. It was held in the fire hall on October 14 instead.
“We hope to be back in the church for December,” Mr. Hirtle said. “If everything goes as it should the cleanup will take about two months.”
And as far as the oil tank goes?
“That will be moved inside,” he said.
posted on 10/17/12
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