A sewage nightmare continues for one Mechanicsville family. Now they are asking for help.
The family was forced to throw away everything in their home. The reason was a blocked county sewer line that sent human waste pouring inside, and neither Hanover County nor the homeowners' insurance will cover the cost of clean-up.
This happened mid-May, and the family has been living out of a hotel. They called 12 On Your Side for help. We are looking into their awful predicament and have information to help protect you and your home.
It’s called Sewage and Drain Backup insurance. This story illustrates how important it is to have this coverage.
It was a one, two, three punch for the Freitag family. First, raw sewage backed up into their home. Then, finding out that their homeowner's insurance won't cover it, and neither will Hanover County.
The family figures it will cost over $100,000 in clean up and restoration work. They have set up a GoFundMe for donations.
Everything from furniture to clothes and baby toys, all ruined. Even the inside walls must come down.
Margaret Freitag says they were ankle-deep in sewage water, trying to mop and move furnishings.
"It started running through the floor vents, downstairs into the basement. Raining down into the basement and going into the downstairs ceiling, into the floors and coming out of the light fixtures and the walls," said Freitag. "Oh my gosh. It was just a waterfall of sewage in the basement, as well as up here."
"We have to finish throwing out all the stuff that was destroyed," said Freitag's daughter, Katrina Foreman. "Then we have to tear out all the stuff that was destroyed. Then we have to tear out all of the affected areas. Then decontaminate the frame work. Pull out the HVAC system and decontaminate that. I mean, I think it would be cheaper to build a new house."
White specks over the floors are toilet paper from neighbors' sewer lines. Hanover Public Utility says the home's first floor is two feet lower than the sewer that it is connected to, so when tree roots formed a blockage someplace outside their property, sewage rushed to the lowest point: their home.
NBC12 posed the family’s questions to Hanover Director of Public Utilities Steven Herzog, who says the county did its due diligence. The family’s position is that the county did not maintain the sewer line, and that's what caused the backup that destroyed their home.
The county's insurance denied the claim. To be liable, the homeowner must prove gross negligence on Hanover's part.
Hanover says it does routine sewer maintenance every five years, and in this instance, this very line was flushed just a year ago of debris and tree roots.
"They were definitely the cause of the blockage and the backup, but we weren't aware that they were there, and as soon as we became aware of the problem, we responded and had it corrected within two hours, and I want to say, we're all sick over it," said Herzog.
The family’s homeowners insurance denied the claim also. If the Freitags had Sewer and Drain insurance added to their policy, they would be covered.
An industry expert says it costs about $35 a year. It covers blockages that occur off your property.
Foreman's parents are relying on the generosity of family and friends. Right now, a hotel room is their home. They aren't sure where they'll end up once that stay is over.
"Both my parents have heart problems, and the heat and humidity...it's hard to be homeless and be out in the elements and then to go into this house. It's toxic in there," said Foreman. "It's just a bacteria box, heating up with all this rain."
The Freitags cleared out the house themselves and picked through their belongings, trying to salvage as much as they could. The difficult part is ripping out the walls and flooring and re-doing everything inside. Foreman says they just don't have the money.
"It's been pretty awful, and I've run out of elbow grease, so that's why I set up the GoFundMe page hoping for a miracle and money helps," said Foreman.
She also strongly believes Hanover County should be helping them.
"I don't understand how my parents are responsible to pay for faulty county pipes," said Foreman. "It wasn't part of the house that broke. It was out on the county's property that happened...My sister and her husband, they lived in the basement, brand new baby, all of their stuff all gone. I worry, but I try to trust God, because worry doesn't really get you anywhere."
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