After oil leak, focus on property owner

A home heating oil leak that earlier this month caused residents to evacuate a three-decker on Boston St. has neighborhood residents concerned that mismanaged properties in the area could result in contamination or a public safety hazard.

On January 2, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and Boston Fire Department responded to a report of an oil leak at 251 Boston St. A DEP spokesman said that corrosion on the underbelly of the 275 gallon tank in the basement of the home caused the release of up to 100 gallons of oil into the house.

The house near the corner of Boston St. and Massachusetts Avenue by Edward Everett Square is owned by Steve Chelansky and managed by his real estate company Hearthstone Corporation. Chelansky is listed in Boston city records as the owner of 59 properties around the city, most located in Dorchester and South Boston. Requests made to Chelansky’s office for comment were not returned.

Desmond Rohan, a member of the McCormack Civic Association executive board, said the Boston St. building and two houses on Roseclair St. managed by Hearthstone have been “thorns in our backs over the last several years,” adding that the oil tank incident was “the last straw,” for some beleaguered neighbors.

Those neighbors had their say at a a community meeting held last week when discussion turned from the leak incident to the problem of landlord negligence.

Steven Johnson from the DEP presented a report on the oil tank leak to the McCormack Civic Association at the group’s January 18 meeting. Rohan said that Johnson described the incident as a “routine spill” and that DEP officials expect a full report on the spill by the beginning of March. The report will detail the severity of the spill after a cleanup company determines if oil leaked beyond the basement or into the ground water under the house.

A spokesman from the Boston Fire Department said that it is up to the property owner to maintain an oil tank and to respond to a spill or leak.

Commonwealth Tank, a cleanup company, was hired to remove the oil and to assess the cleanup. Soil tests will determine if the ground was contaminated by the leak.

Rohan said that Chaletzky did not attend the McCormack meeting, but has been in contact with members of the group’s executive board and has expressed interest in improving his properties.

According to Rohan, Chaletzky is trying to evict at least one tenant at one of the troubled properties and hopes to improve the tenant screening process.

According to Rohan, the other area properties managed by Chelansky and Heathstone are managed well and the civic association has not received complaints about them.