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Sewer Backup Woes Continue For Edina Neighbors
The sewer backup issue that began over a year ago in the area of Shumate, Broadway and Hill Streets, in the southeastern section of Edina, has continued to affect the home of Clint and Angie Miller, whose home has flooded with sewage again this year. Last year their fully finished basement was completely destroyed after sewage and water backed up into their basement. The ordeal left the Millers with tens of thousands of dollars in cleanup and repair expenses.
The Millers approached the City Council one year ago exactly asking them to “do the right thing” by encouraging their insurance provider to cover the bulk of the Millers’ out of pocket expenses, but the City Council declined reasoning that the Miller’s problem was between them and their neighbors who were illegally hooked into the city’s sewer line, which, according to the city, combined with last year’s heavy rainfall caused the Miller’s basement to flood.
The council decided to send letters to homeowners in the area notifying them their illegal hookups must be repaired at the homeowner’s, not the city’s, expense. The matter wasn’t pursued by the city after that first round of letters.
Over the last year, despite the lack of rainfall and precautions the Miller’s have taken themselves their basement has flooded again and just last month their neighbors, Ron and Lil Troutt, had the sewer backup into their basement as well.
On Monday, August 8, 2011 at the Edina City Council public meeting, one year exactly since the Millers first came to the council, they are back with their original request for the city or their insurance company to pick up the bill for the first time their home flooded with sewage. The Troutt’s also attended the meeting and plainly asked the council to figure out why their home was now flooding with sewage too and get the problem fixed, saying the issue was obviously not caused by excessive rain since we haven’t had any.
“You all know we have a problem at our end of town. The first time it flooded I thought my back flap wasn’t working right so that was just my bad. After we had flood number two and flood number three and flood number four and flood number five my lightning fast brain came on and said something’s not right here,” said Ron Troutt. “I know a lot of things have been looked at, but I don’t feel like I’m any closer tonight to not having a flood in my basement.”
The Troutt’s brought several aids to assist them in getting their message across. They were armed with a bag full of greasy goop, a bucket of sewage and dozens of pictures that clearly portray their basement floors covered in feces and other materials commonly found in a sewer line like used feminine sanitary products and toilet paper.
“This is what we found outside our shutoff valve on the ground. Grease.” Said Mrs. Lil Troutt standing in front of the council holding up a gallon sized clear zipper sealed bag, which was about half full of off white greasy goop speckled with dark brown and black bits of debris. “This,” said Mrs. Troutt uncovering a gallon size Blue Bunny vanilla ice cream container full, nearly to the top, of dark green liquid, “is (what we collected) after we had six shop vacs running all afternoon and evening Tuesday. We saved you that to show you. We’ve got big problems.”
“We haven’t made any repairs in our basement and I’m not going to until I see that we’ve got the problem stopped coming in,” added Mr. Troutt.
The Troutt’s made their way back to their seats, but left the uncovered bucket of liquid sewage sitting on the council’s conference table, which immediately tinged the air in City Hall with the rank pungent aroma of raw sewage. The baggie of greasy goop was left on the council’s conference table as well. The pictures of excrement strewn throughout their basement circulated among the council members.
After the Troutt’s finished the Miller’s made their way to the podium with some harsh words for the council.
“We’ve already purchased a sewage backup protector and that’s our last straw. It cost us $2,500,” said Angie Miller. “The ordinance that you have doesn’t do anything because you don’t hold anybody accountable.” Mrs. Miller continued on to ask, “Do you think that you are a negligent party in our flood?”
Mayor Strickler answered back, “I didn’t think we were.” The topic of negligence didn’t go any further as the council sat stone faced and completely silent.
Monica Zahn, who is a neighbor of the Troutt’s and Miller’s, spoke up from the audience saying, “I’m in that subdivision too and I’m on egg shells. I’m waiting for him (Mike Wriedt) to pull in and slap a letter on my door too. That letter that went out about fix it or a thousand dollar fine per day. I’m a single mom. I don’t have that kind of money. Every person in the world I’ve talked to has told me that there’s no amount of water that is draining off of my house that’s enough to flood my entire neighborhood. Something’s wrong. Something’s wrong somewhere. If it is the grease and someone is consistently pouring grease down their line send them the letter. Charge them a thousand dollars a day.”
As the meeting rolled on the Mayor and Aldermen questioned the City Superintendent, Mike Wriedt, about the city work crew’s work on the lift station that services 11 homes in the Miller’s and Troutt’s neighborhood.
Both families praised Wriedt and the city work crew for the efforts they have made to keep their homes from flooding more than they already have, which according to both families would have happened several more times if it weren’t for the city work crew.
When the families finished addressing the council Mayor Strickler said, “I wish I had some words of comfort, but I don’t.”
The Mayor, council, Superintendent, Troutt’s and Miller’s discussed in detail what could be causing the problem other than the original hypothesis that the backup was caused by infiltration from excessive rain and what steps could be taken to move forward through this problem. Over half of this month’s City Council meeting was dedicated to this issue. All the while the bucket of sewage sat ominously in front of the council sending its scent into the air for nearly an hour.
Near the end of the meeting, after the families had gone, the bucket of sewage was quietly covered. It and the baggie of grease were escorted out of the building. At the end of the meeting the council voted to go into closed session and their discussion therein was not open to the public.
Since the City Council meeting the Superintendent, Wriedt, along with city work crew employee, Allen See, dug deeper into the lift station in question finding the base of one of the pumps was worn down. The two replaced the base Friday, August 11, 2011 hoping the repair would help fix the problem. While they were working in and around the lift station a downpour of rain occurred.
“I was working here when it rained pretty good and I got to see exactly what is happening in this lift station during a downpour. The problem definitely is infiltration,” said Wriedt. “Some of these houses are still illegally hooked into the city’s sewer line and it’s still causing a problem here.”
Which puts the city and the City Council right back where they started a year ago.
You can listen to an audio recording of the Edina City Council public meeting held Monday, August 8, 2011 by going to our web site at www.nemonews.net.