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Small Dorchester County Church Struggles With Cost of Cleaning Oil Spill

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TODDVILLE, Md.- You may not have heard of the tiny community of Toddville.  It's a stretch of only a few homes along a road in the far southern portion of Dorchester county.  In late February, their methodist church's oil tank sprung a leak, ringing up a big bill for the cleanup.  Members of the community are worried that bill might be too much for the church's small congregation to handle.

400 gallons of dyed kerosene spilled into the yard and under the old Zion United Methodist Church in Toddville.  Cleanup is for the most part done, but like the check that comes at the end of an expensive meal, the number at the bottom of the receipt could make your jaw drop.

Brandon Beville was one of the people who discovered the leak in late February.

"You see the tank here, this is your reservoir for your oil to heat this church," he showed us.  "This line here runs underneath this church here.  The line either froze or rusted out during this harsh winter we had."

400 gallons of oil spilled out, most of which has now been cleaned up.  But the roughly $20,000 cost is now on the church and it's members.  another part of the problem is let's say all 15 people in the church were able to donate $1,000 to fix this problem.  They'd still be $2,000 to $5,000 short on that bill.

The Zion United Methodist Church in Cambridge has been in those shoes.  They had a leak in 2006 that cost $90,000.

"The soil had to be removed, it had to go through a filtration system that was set up here right behind the church," said Kenny Thomas, the treasurer at the Cambridge church.

Those expenses were covered up front by an endowment, and then reimbursed by the Maryland Department of the Environment for the most part.  Pastor Bill Davis at the Cambridge church says the burden of this bill is hard on a tiny rural church that doesn't have those resources.

"A lot of these smaller churches are struggling just to pay their bills, so when something unexpected like this pops up, it can truly be devastating," says Davis.

"It's a lot of pressure, we don't know if it's going to be open or not.  It's a lot of money," says Beville.

The hope is they can take advantage of a program or raise enough funds to cover the $20,000 bill.

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