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OREM RESIDENT HOLDS CITY LIABLE FOR DAMAGE

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An Orem resident wants the city to pay for damage caused by raw sewage that backed up and flooded her home two weeks ago.

On May 15, 4 inches of raw sewage filled the basement of Elizabeth Drake's home, located at 1097 N. 910 East. The sewage also gurgled up in the basements of four adjacent homes.Drake contacted the city immediately after discovering the sewage filling her basement. Waste-water crews believe grease plugged an 8-inch sewer main, causing the sewage to flood the homes.

The city resolved damage that occurred to all but two of the homeowners - the two homeowners who incurred the most damage.

Drake estimates the sewage caused $6,000 damage to her home. The sewage spilled out of a floor drain in the laundry room, saturating seven piles of clothes Drake had sorted for washing. The mess also soaked carpet and padding in the basement.

"We're the lowest on the line, so we got the worst-smelling, the thickest and the deepest," Drake told the Deseret News.

Drake appeared Tuesday before the City Council to appeal for help. After the accident, the city agreed to have the Drakes'carpets and clothes cleaned and replace the carpet padding.

The carpets and padding haven't been touched, Drake said. The city gathered her family's clothes into 12 garbage bags and then left them to sit for five days. The bags of clothes were eventually taken to a cleaner but that failed to remove the stench. Drake says the clothes are damaged beyond repair.

"My neighbors and I are appalled by the way we've been treated by the city of Orem," said Drake, adding that the $947 in "humanitarian aid" the city offered the Drakes doesn't come close to covering the damages.

City Manager Daryl Berlin agreed there "is nothing more distasteful than to have a sewer back up in your home." But, he said the city does not believe it is liable or responsible for the backup.

Councilman Steve Heinz sympathized with Drake; he had a sewer back up in his home. But liability for the problem rests with "whoever is putting the grease into the line," Heinz said. "I really don't see where the city is liable, because the lines are sized properly and kept as clear as possible."

The council agreed to have Berlin prepare a detailed report on the incident and bring it back to the council.