Sewage floods Durham home twice in a matter of days, causes thousands of dollars in damage

Samantha Kummerer Image
Monday, July 18, 2022
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Their lateral sewer line backed up and caused a downpour of water to their lower level; enough to cause them to fill up trashcans full of sewer water.

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- For 10 years, Jacqueline Smith owned property in downtown Durham without any issues, but then in a matter of days her home flooded twice.

"My husband was taking a shower and he heard the toilet go 'glug-gala,' because that means it's coming back up," Smith said. "So he comes yelling to the door because I was outside with a friend and we knew immediately that something was going to be happening."

Smith remembered it was a Friday when sewer water started rushing into their upstairs bathroom.

Their lateral sewer line backed up and Smith said caused a downpour of water to their lower level; enough to cause them to fill up trashcans full of sewer water.

"It's watered sewage that's coming back through; it's definitely not clean water. There was no turning off the spigot or anything like that to discontinue the flow. It was a matter of coming outside, trying to peel off caps for the laterals, calling the city, renting an auger to try and mitigate the situation," Smith said.

The city did come out that Friday. A worker who responded wrote in a report that, "Caller has a PVC cleanout under the deck that is private. Informed caller that this is private and to give us a call back if they get the cap off of the cast pipe."

But three days later, Smith said it happened again.

Again, the city responded and this time crews found a sag in the pipe on the city's side of the property.

The City of Durham said depending on where the issue occurs determines who is responsible for repairs (city vs. customer).

"The belly, it dips it goes up a little bit it dips again. So this problem instead of allowing the water to flow with gravity, it's sitting, it's collecting and it's going to continue to happen, it's going to continue to back up," Smith explained.

She said she didn't get the sense that the city was going to make any permanent fixes unless a larger issue occurred that impacted the street, so she reached out to the ABC11 I-Team.

The City of Durham told the I-Team it did place a work order for the issues after the second visit.

A city incident report from the second leak stated, "Will put on hotspot program until repair made."

The report also stated, "You can see that's it's draining and the customer is not backed up at this time. We gave them a claims card because they said the sewage came through the ceiling and damaged it."

In addition to waiting for a solution, Smith said she filed a damage claim with the city as she estimated the damage totaled more than $6,000.

"We'll have to take the toilet out, put a new wax ring in so it's not going to leak on our floor anymore. We're going to have to take the ceiling out where the pipes run. There's some electrical that runs through there. We're going to have to make sure that none of that has been affected by any of those. Obviously, we don't want (a) fire or any sort of electrical hazard once the sheet rock (is) down," Smith said listing the damages.

She also said some of their furniture was ruined by the water and they have an Airbnb on their property that was impacted.

"We refunded their money for their stay which was $800 we put them into a hotel for the night which was another $200. So just trying to make them comfortable while we were trying to scramble and figure out what we were going to do to solve this problem. That's $1,000 out of our pocket," she said.

Smith said city crews came out to fix the problem after ABC11 reached out to the city and they have not had an issue since.

Residents in any municipality can file claims with the city if they or their property was injured or damaged by the municipality.

Smith said she is still waiting on Durham to process her claim to see if she will get reimbursed for the damages.