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Blocked county line sends human waste pouring inside home

Posted at 6:40 PM, May 24, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-24 18:40:17-04

If you own a home, this family's story will leave you thinking - and probably checking your insurance policy.

A Mechanicsville family was forced to throw away everything in their home. The reason was a blocked county sewer line that sent human waste pouring inside.

This happened about a week ago and the family has been homeless ever since, so 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 $100,000 in clean up and restoration work.

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."

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.

Margaret Freitag says her family desperately needs help.

"I don't know what we're going to do. We're going to trust God and he'll keep a covering over our head."

Right now, the family is living with relatives and friends who will take them in. Hanover says it’s an awful situation and it’s talking to its insurance company to see if there’s a way that the county can help this family.

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