Several Homes Illegally Hooked Into City Sewer Line
By Echo Menges
The hot topic discussed at the Edina City Council meeting, held Monday, August 9, 2010, was the discovery of several illegal residential sewer hook-ups after one home flooded. Several homes in the area of Broadway, Shumate, and Hill Streets are apparently illegally hooked up to the city's sewer line via basement drains and sump pumps. The problem has been going on for years, but has gone unnoticed until a massive amount of rain fell just last month.
The problem wasn't brought to light until one home's basement flooded with rainwater and sewage caused by a backup stemming from an overload on the city's sewer system. Once city maintenance workers investigated the problem, they discovered the home involved, along with a few more in the same area, had basement drains hooked into the City’s sewer line.
There's a City Ordinance in Edina prohibiting the hook up of basement drains and sump pumps into the City's sewer line to eliminate problems like the one experienced by Craig and Angie Miller last month.
The Millers were at last week’s City Council meeting armed with pictures and video to show Council members what they've had to go through in the weeks since their basement was overtaken by rainwater and raw sewage.
They addressed the Council in hopes the Council would be able to influence the City's insurance company into picking up some of the cost to bring their basement back to life.
The Millers told the Council they are looking at an out-of-pocket cost of around $25,000.00. Their home's insurance company would only pay a cleaning cost of nearly $5,000.00, and has since informed the Millers they would be discontinuing their insurance coverage.
The Millers had a completely finished basement, which they used often, but since the basement was flooded, not once but twice, on July 20 and 24, 2010, their basement has been completely undone.
The Millers told the Council the City's insurance company denied them payment on their claim and they would have to pay for the repairs and replace any damaged personal property themselves.
The City’s insurance company called the influx of water an "act of God", claiming the City itself was unaware of the problem and was not negligent, telling the Millers the City can't be held responsible to pay for their needed repairs, saying fault on the City's part was unfounded thus the City and City’s insurance company was not liable. But the Millers pleaded with the Council to please help them by going back to the City's insurance company to try and get them to help pay.
Part of the issue the Millers brought up to the Council was they were unaware their basement drain was illegally hooked into the City's sewer line and since their basement flooded not only by rainwater, but also sewage, they thought the City should have to share the burden of the bills they are faced with.
The Millers informed the council they have since taken steps to get their basement drain off the City's sewer line. They talked about how, now that the issue's been brought to light, City maintenance workers have discovered more homes illegally hooked into the sewer. They told the Council they expect their insurance company to go after not only the City, but also their neighbors who are illegally hooked up to the sewer line and added to the overflow.
The Millers said they’d much rather work with people rather than against them, and pointed out if the people around them, hooked into the sewer line illegally, don’t also remedy the problem, their basement could continue to flood every time there’s a heavy rain, since their home is the lowest in the concerned area. Many of their neighbors are likely to be unaware they are illegally hooked up to the sewer adding to the problem. With the thousands upon thousands of dollars it will cost them to get their basement back to where it once was they are leery of even attempting to re-invest into their basement out of fear they will just continue to experience the same costly problem.
And the City Council was leery about agreeing to try to force their insurance company to pay, or even help pay, for the Miller’s damages pointing out many houses in Edina could be illegally hooked into the sewer line. If the city steps in to save the Millers, they would be forced to foot the bill for everyone who experiences the same problem in the future risking their own insurance premiums and coverage. They talked about how they could help the Millers without ultimately passing the bill back to the taxpayers.
The Millers pointed out the City paid their premiums for this reason and admitted partial responsibility for the problem since they too were hooked into the line illegally. They talked in depth to the Council about how they are now in compliance with the City Ordinance, but as long as several of their neighbors are not their basement would remain in peril.
In the end, the no motion was made by the Council to take any action concerning the issue.
While the Council could not find a way to help monetarily, they have the ability to enforce the ordinance prohibiting the homes around the Millers from keeping any illegal hookups into the City’s sewer line causing the sewer to overflow into the Millers home.
City maintenance workers are now investigating the blocks of Broadway, Shumate, and Hill Streets to find homes illegally hooked up to the City’s sewer line via basement drains and sump pumps. So far they have found three and expect to find several more.
Anyone found to be illegally hooked into the City’s sewer line will be receiving a letter from the City of Edina informing them they are in violation of the City Ordinance and telling them they will be responsible for fixing the problem at their own expense.
It is unclear why the backup in the Miller's basement happened now, there has been plenty of heavy rainfall in Edina over the past several years and many of the residents around the Millers have been in their homes for some time.
Now that the problem has been identified City workers will be busy investigating to get the problem resolved. Since the issue concerns private property, it will come at the expense of the homeowners found to be illegally hooked into the City's sewer line, not the City thus not the taxpayers.