AuSABLE FORKS - A company contracted to clean a sewer line in AuSable Forks caused a foul incident, according to some homeowners on the street where the cleaning took place.
During the week of Aug. 4, a sewer cleaning project was performed at Church Lane by Green Mountain Piping Services, a company from Vermont, and an AES Northwest project engineer. However, some outraged homeowners soon found it was their homes that needed cleaning.
Timothy and Mary Lincoln, residents of Church Lane, wrote a letter to the town of Jay board detailing the incident.
"We had sewer come up through our two bathroom sinks, toilets and showers, at 97 Church Lane, leaving raw sewage on the floors and walls," the Lincolns wrote. "The bathroom walls should be repainted, as they were splattered with the sewage. I cannot tell if there was any damage done to the floors under the linoleum, but there was water, along with the raw sewage on the floors."
The sewage spill ruined two shower curtains and two shower mats, an estimated $90 value, they wrote. The mess took them three hours to clean up.
The Lincolns said their "main concern" was that they were not informed of the work prior to it taking place.
"As property owners/tax payers, some type of notice informing us of this project should have been sent out," the Lincolns wrote.
Another resident of Church Lane had a similar problem. Peter J. Ersts sent a letter on Aug. 11 to the town board explaining the situation. The Ersts urged the board to stop the current way sewer lines are cleaned.
"I think the current approach for cleaning out sewer lines under Church Lane needs to immediately stop and be throughly reviewed," the Ersts wrote. "For the second time in less than a week, residents along Church Lane have had liquids and solids, i.e. sewage, expelled from their drains as a direct result of the cleaning efforts."
During the first round of the sewer line cleaning, his house had a strong sewage odor, but the next incident he was "not so lucky," he wrote.
"As I walked out of my office and rounded the corner, I was greeted by a spray of liquids and solids erupting from the kitchen sink," he wrote. "(It) rained down onto my counter, onto my floor, onto my clean dishes, and onto my fresh vegetables that I had picked earlier in the morning."
The toilet, bathroom sink and shower of the home did the same.
Ersts spoke with the AES Northwest engineer and the workers outside on the street and explained what happened. At first the workers did not believe it, he wrote. But then they came inside Ersts' home and saw the mess firsthand, and then helped him clean it. They apologized and said "this should not happen," he wrote.
Ersts was frustrated with the lack of communication between the municipality and Church Lane residents. He also wrote that everyone involved was "very polite."
Town of Jay Supervisor Randy Douglas said the sewer cleaning project affected six homes. He shut the project down after hearing about what was happening and asked the company to reimburse any damage caused to the homeowners.
"I told them we were stopping the project until we came up with a conclusion," Douglas said.
Douglas said Tropical Storm Irene left a significant amount of sediment in the town of Jay's sewer system in 2011.
The town submitted two requests for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to assist with the cost of the cleanup, and the agency agreed. Douglas personally traveled to Washington, D.C. to lobby for the project.
"There's no cost to the town of Jay taxpayers," he said. "It's suppose to be a good thing, and we never expected to have an issue with this."
Douglas said there is hopefully a solution to the problem. By popping off the tank's lids, pressure won't be created in the sewer system, he said. The town has requested additional funding from FEMA to complete the project.
"To have this happen, it was devastating to us," Douglas said.