NEW BERN - Nearly one year after Hurricane Irene, a hazardous smell forces a New Bern man from the home he's owned for decades.
Stepping into Willis Hall's Opal Street house, the living room is filled with a new car smell. There's not a picture out of place, each room seemingly untouched by Irene. But after a half hour, breathing becomes difficult, and light-headed feelings sink in.
"Ever since this hurricane, we've been stuck with this smell, ever since," Hall said in a Monday interview at his home. "I haven't been able to live here for a year. My wife and I just come here for short periods of time, to use the computer, things like that."
Heavy rain flooded Opal Street August 28, sending fuel oil stored next door into the crawlspace of Hall's house. The tainted water then seeped into the structure's insulation.
After spending more than $4 thousand to tear out sections of the crawlspace, the smell remained. Sleep became impossible without significant discomfort.
"I get a bad taste in my mouth, sometimes teary eyed," Hall said. "My wife, she has a bad taste in her mouth too. Her lip gets numb and stuff like that."
Air testing by two specialists and the Craven County Health Department proved inconclusive. The source of the smell could not be determined.
Hill and his wife now live with his sister, 10 miles away in the community of Jasper. Most of their possessions remain in their house of 27 years, and a supply of breathing masks is kept for people who stay for a longer visit.
"After you've been out of your house for a year, this month makes a year, it is terribly aggravating," Hill said.
A commercial air purifier near his computer has been to no avail, keeping the windows open for days also has garnered no results.
Hill is running out of funds to find a cause, and a solution. He hopes to find someone who can offer another opinion, and give him back the house he lost a year ago.
"It's hard just finding people who will stick to their word. Fix the problem, not just walk away."