When a Center Grove area man walked into his home, the smell hit him as soon as he stepped through the doorway.
Immediately, Nick Gentry knew something was wrong. The sound of running water coming from his basement only confirmed his fear.
Gentry lives in the Brentridge Estates subdivision near Center Grove Middle School Central and Morgantown Road. In July, raw sewage backed up and overflowed into the basements of more than 10 homes, including his, after a nearby lift station backed up when Honey Creek flooded.
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“When we walked in the door it felt like you got punched in the face with the smell,” Gentry said. “Water was shooting out of our toilet like a volcano. I was able to get a couple things out of the basement, but there’s nothing you can do. I stopped wading through it and sat on the stairs. It was a completely helpless feeling.”
July’s incident was the third time homeowners experienced major sewage back up in their basements, Brentridge Estates resident Roberta Smithey said. Smithey is the Brentridge Estates homeowners association president and has served on the board for about 15 years. After July’s incident, she reached out to the city of Greenwood for answers and a solution, Smithey said.
‘A CONSTANT BATTLE’
Greenwood Mayor Mark Myers said the city is aware of the problem and working on a project to alleviate the issues.Officials plan to have an interceptor, or additional sewer line, built near Wicker Road and State Road 37 that will take on excess wastewater and hopefully put a stop to sewage back ups near the Brentridge lift station, sanitation director Keith Meier said. The new line is in the design stage and construction is planned for 2018, Meier said.
“Keeping rainwater and groundwater out of our sewer lines is a constant battle,” Meier said.
“The Brentridge lift station is sized to handle residential areas out there, but due to large rain, back ups do happen. We are investigating the problem. We are trying to balance out the system with an interceptor to add relief to the entire sewer system throughout the city. It’s a system-wide issue.”
But specifically near the Brentrige lift station, the issue is a bigger problem for nearby residents. When the area gets about four or five inches of rain in a short amount of time, the lift station is more prone to back up, Meier said.
When the wastewater has nowhere to go, it backs up into homes. At Gentry’s house, raw sewage spewed from his toilet and bath tub, as was the case at many other homes in July. For nearly five hours the raw sewage was filling the basement at the Gentry residence ruining everything it touched from furniture to electronics, his children’s toys and cabinets, Gentry said.
And the smell was so intense and the damage so severe, the family all piled into one bedroom in the back of the house for several days, Gentry said.
About 10 inches of standing wastewater caused more than $15,000 in damages. And the cost to repair dry wall, replace the laminate flooring and items such as furniture and other valuables that were destroyed wasn’t covered entirely by insurance, Gentry said. About $5,000 worth of repairs were paid for out of pocket.
For nearly two months, Gentry spent about 10 hours per day on the weekend cleaning and repairing the basement, Gentry said.
Gentry called the city of Greenwood’s sanitation department, curious if they were aware of the problem. The response he got wasn’t what he expected, Gentry said. The city was aware and sent a few sanitation employees out to look into the issue, but nothing in the form of a fix, or solution ever came, Gentry said.
“We considered leaving the house. My wife wanted to move. There were a lot of emotions,” Gentry said. “It was like ‘thanks for letting us know’. They don’t see the expense because they don’t pay for it. I don’t have the financial resources to attack this (if it happens) again.”
When employees from the sanitation department came out to the Brentridge Estates subdivision to investigate the issue, they recommended residents get check valves and have them installed, Meier said.
Smithey contacted both the city and county regarding the issue, searching for an explanation and a solution to prevent the issue from reoccurring. So far, recommending check valves is the most she has received from the city in terms of an immediate solution, or assistance with the reoccurring issues, Smithey said.“Everyone we have talked to was very nice. But there is just no real resolution to this issue,” Smithey said.
The suggestion to install a check valves is a solution, but it costs about $3,400.
A lift station moves wastewater from lower to higher ground and flooding after several consecutive days of rain causes the issue. When the water level exceeds the height of the lift station, wastewater backs up and overflows into homes because it has nowhere to go. A check valve allows wastewater through, but if it backs up, the valve closes, stopping it from overflowing into homes.
HIT TO POCKETBOOK
So far, the homeowners who have installed the only known fix to the problem are digging into their own pockets even deeper. Most of the residents who have put in a check valve have already forked out thousands for restoration and are using the valve as a preventive tool so they aren’t in the same position again.Gentry has installed a check valve. He learned about the valve when he saw neighbors installing one shortly after the sewage back up. That’s when he learned the problem went far beyond the boundaries of his basement and back yard, where raw sewage also overflowed, Gentry said.
Homeowner Kurt Schoch remembers the first time he experienced sewage back up in his basement, during heavy rainfall in June 2008. That year, about five feet of black wastewater overflowed into his basement, Schoch said. In July 2015, about two feet of sewage destroyed everything in his basement, again, Schoch said.
In total, damages have cost Schoch about $45,000 in repairs and replacement of his property that was in the basement, Schoch said. Schoch isn’t nearly as concerned with the dollar amount as he is with answers as to how this continues to happen, Schoch said.
“Who’s responsible? The prevention is what’s frustrating,” Schoch said. “This has happened twice since I’ve lived here, and nobody seems to be able to say what can be done. The only solid feedback I can remember is being told the infrastructure is too old.”
In December 2013, Larry Lennon and his wife came home to more than one foot of wastewater standing in their basement, Lennon said. Lennon first thought the issue was caused from a bad sump pump, so he had it replaced.
The Lennon residence was hit with backed up sewage overflowing into their basement again in July. In total, the Lennon’s have faced $33,000 in damages with about $9,000 of that coming out of their own pocket, Lennon said.
“Every time it rains heavily, we have a lot of anxiety worried if it will flood again,” Lennon said. “This is the nicest house we have ever had. I don’t want to move, but we could never go through another flood like that.”
Sewage back up in Brentridge Estates basements is nothing new. Issues date back to 2008.
- June 2008: heavy rainfall causes flooding in Johnson County, backing up a lift station near Center Grove High School. Brentridge Estates homeowners have as much as five feet of sewage back up in their basement. Many residents reported damages of more than $10,000 and had to pay several thousands of dollars out of their own pocket.
- December 2013: Several residents experienced sewage back up overflowing into the basement of their homes after a lift station near Center Grove High School is flooded. Many residents reported damages of more than $10,000 and had to pay several thousands of dollars out of their own pocket.
- July 2015: Heavy rainfall causes Honey Creek to overflow and flood the same lift station near Center Grove High School. More than 10 houses on three streets have sewage back up overflowing in the basement. Many residents reported damages of more than $10,000 and had to pay several thousands of dollars out of their own pocket.