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Do Not Try to Stay in Your Home After an Oil Spill – It’s Not Safe!

Posted by Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht LLP on May 16th, 2023

At Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht, we have put a heavy focus in recent months on oil spills in New York. From the types of oil spills and causes to the rights New Yorkers have when exposed to a spill, we want to prepare our clients for the aftermath of an oil spill in their homes or businesses.

Whenever we talk to clients about these subjects, one of the items we frequently discuss is actually leaving your home or business after an oil spill. We fully understand how difficult it can be to leave home. Clients express how difficult it can be to uproot their lives and live with a friend, family member, neighbor, or in a hotel/motel – but it’s the right choice for your health (along with the health of your family and/or customers).

Oil Spills Expose You to High Levels of Carcinogens

Staying in your home or business may seem like a convenient choice, but you are putting yourself and others at risk due to the continued exposure to toxins from the spill. Oil is full of toxic chemicals like benzene, which is a known carcinogen.

The United Nations indicated that prolonged exposure to petroleum, which is used in some home heating systems, increases the risk of cancer. While the study was done on people living near plants, occupying a building that has directly been exposed to a spill could include similar risks of mesothelioma, skin cancer, lung cancer, and other types of cancer.

People who have stayed behind after an oil spill have reported experiencing difficulty breathing due to inhaling these fumes. Until total remediation has been done, your home will not be a totally safe place to live.

What Should I Do, and Where Should I Go?

When exposed to an oil spill, contact law enforcement or a local environmental agency immediately. After that, let them do their jobs while you avoid any direct contact with the oil, stay away from areas exposed to the oil (you will often be able to smell or see it), do not drink, bathe, or enter waters near the spill, and get out.

You may be able to find a loved one to stay with, but you also should not be afraid to seek out housing at a hotel or motel if you can afford it in the interim.

How Will I Afford Alternative Housing?

As noted in our previous post on the rights of New Yorkers exposed to oil spills, you have the right under New York’s Navigation Law to recover any reasonable costs associated with the oil spill as long as you weren’t responsible. If you are forced to pay for alternative housing then the discharger of the oil will be required to reimburse you for those costs at a reasonable rate. Reasonable just means any costs associated with the necessary housing.

Our team at Sunshine, Isaacson & Hecht knows environmental law in New York. Attorney Jeffrey Sunshine serves as the Chair of the Environmental Law Committee of the Nassau County Bar Association. Our expertise guides us to serve and protect New Yorkers in the event of an oil spill. Contact us, and we will help you take the necessary steps to protect yourself and your family while we fight for every penny you are owed.

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