HARRISVILLE -- Homeowners looking for help with sewage backflow problems were told they are on their own and Harrisville cannot help them fix the problem.
On Aug. 1, Liberty Avenue resident Millissa Ferguson woke up to find that the previous night's storm had brought more than just water. Her son found filthy brown liquid flooding the basement from sewage pouring into homes.
The overflow occurred when the Weber County main sewer line was overridden with water from the July 31 storm. Kent Jones, a consulting engineer, said the storm was the type that happens about once every hundred years.
"There's a 1 percent chance of that storm happening in one year," said Jones.
The five homes were all hooked into the Weber sewer main when they were built. Most of the homes were built before new codes requiring backflow prevention were in place, but the Ferguson home was built in 1997, several years after the codes were in effect.
Jones said the new codes specify that there shouldn't be any drains or bathrooms below the level of the manholes in case something like this happens, but half of Ferguson's home is below the manhole.
"Why did they approve it and build my home?" asked Ferguson.
Building official Kent Martin declined to comment except to say there is a long history on how the codes have been processed over the years.
The residents received letters from Central Weber Sewer Improvement District's insurance declining liability and any possible damage claims because it was caused by rain and because "there is no history of any problems or defects with the sewer lines that were involved in the incident."
Residents said that in 1991 the same thing happened when there was a big storm and sewage backed into homes. Residents are afraid this will continue to occur. Homeowner's insurance doesn't cover the damage because it is caused by an external force.
"So whose responsibility is it? Is it Harrisville residents? Is it Harrisville city? I mean, you guys are here to defend the city, but who defends the people?" asked Judy Lammon, a resident whose home was flooded both in 1991 and again this July.
According to Jones the occurrence was what they call an "act of God" in legal terms.
"You don't design a sewer to take flood waters," said Jones. "Nobody has done anything wrong here. It's just a natural disaster."
Jones suggested that individuals install their own backflow devices, but the backflow devices can corrode and need to be maintained to avoid creating a backflow of even more sewage.
Jones sympathized, calling the events unfortunate and explaining that these things happen more often than people may realize. His basement has flooded in the past as well. He said, "There is nothing worse than having sewage back up into your basement."