Over the past few weeks, there's been a lot of activity in front of the Veblen House.
Where before there had been a lawn, a garden of irises, and the walkway frequented by Einstein and other friends of the Veblens, a giant hole is being dug.
If you were to look closely at the groundwater at the bottom of the 15 foot deep hole, you'd see a glaze of oil. The remediation probably had its genesis back in August, when I emailed Mercer County asking if they were aware of the underground storage tanks at both the house and the cottage. The vent pipes that stick a foot or two out of the ground above buried oil tanks had been overlooked all these years.
The tanks had held fuel oil for the houses' furnaces, and had been at some point abandoned. Usually one pumps out any remaining oil, due to the risk that the tanks will begin leaking oil into the groundwater. Remediation can be extremely expensive, as all the contaminated soil needs to be dug up and disposed of according to regulations.
Here is the soil horizon. The oil spread through the gray shale rock down below the less pervious five foot layer of brown clay on top.
I of course wished there was a way to take advantage of the hole--perhaps lay pipes in it before refilling, to be used later on for geothermal heating of the house. But there was no time for such planning.
The photos above were taken two weeks ago. Here's what it looks like today, after all the contaminated soil has been hauled away and the hole filled with clean dirt. Fortunately, they were able to leave Veblen's walkway intact, and part of the garden bed with irises.