Sewage backup trashes house

A city sewer main blockage which backed up into a Cedar Street residence Thursday night has left three people homeless for the time being.

“My entire home is all sewage – it’s everywhere,” Matthew Weekley said Friday. “It’s a mess.”

Weekley, his girlfriend and his brother all lived in the house together and now they’re staying with a relative until they can get some help with the clean-up. He said he’s lost furniture, appliances and other items, along with the use of his home indefinitely, and nobody seems to care.

The home sits on a slab with no basement, so when the sewage backed up into his residence, it filled the living quarters. He said his bathtub has six inches of sewage in it and with the smell, nobody can stay inside for very long.

City Utilities Superintendent Don Weingart said the department received a call after 6 p.m. Thursday about the sewer main being plugged and had to work to clear the blockage at the street. This wasn’t the first time that something like this occurred, with other incidents at homes due to the system becoming plugged.

Weingart said the city can’t control what gets flushed into the system or prevent people from flushing items that lead to the system getting blocked and then backing up into someone else’s property. They’ve found clothing and other items that don’t belong in the system.

“It’s amazing. People will put in anything that will flush,” he said.

The normal procedure is for a homeowner to file a claim with their homeowner’s insurance and let them evaluate the damages and the cost for cleaning it up. If that avenue doesn’t work, then it can be turned over to the city’s insurance carrier, but Weingart said there’s never a guarantee.

He said Weekley came to the utilities department on Friday and was told to seek out a claim with his own insurance carrier first. According to Weekley, he called his insurance carrier and was told it would not be covered. He said he’s consulted with an attorney to go over his policy and help him with the situation.

He thought people should know what can happen. When asked if any of his neighbors were affected, he wasn’t sure but said he noticed what looked like sewage seeping from a neighboring property. Both nearby properties are empty.

When asked if a homeowner can do anything to prevent a sewage backup, Weingart said backwater valves can help stop the sewage from entering a home, but he said the majority of homes don’t have them. If a homeowner wanted to be sure of no sewage backing up into the house, he said they could pay to have a backwater valve installed.

Last August, a similar situation occurred in another home in the city, with the homeowner pleading his case to the Utilities Commission. Part of a claim for the cleaning was to be turned in to the city’s insurance carrier, but Weingart didn’t know the outcome of the claim.