Residents of four homes on Brazil Street flooded by backed-up sewage on Thursday, June 20 have had to find other accommodations for themselves, their pets, and whatever personal belongings they could salvage. To add to their worries, it’s unclear whether the city intends to pay for the extensive cleanup and repairs needed to render the homes habitable again.
“The city is now claiming that they are not at fault and will not cover any damages,” said Silvana Ortiz, who rents one of the four homes affected by the incident. “It’s truly devastating that a city like Melrose would treat its homeowners/renters this way. It’s an absolute disgrace.”
Ortiz and her family are currently staying at a hotel, and boarding several dogs, after Thursday morning’s sewage backup. The problem apparently stemmed from work the DPW was conducting on a blockage in a nearby drain, which somehow sent sewage flowing out of toilets in the four houses. Ortiz said city workers initially admitted responsibility, and culpability.
“They told us that the pressure from whatever they did pushed the sewage into our homes,” she said. “DPW were very apologetic about what had happened and told us to call Servpro to clean up the houses. They also told us that we would have to pay for it up front but the city would be covering the losses.”
The cost is already significant, and will only grow in the weeks ahead.
“Servpro arrived around 11 a.m. [and] gave us an estimate of about $8,000 for cleanup, and they would have to remove anything that the sewage waste touched, i.e. floors, walls, furniture,” Ortiz said. “We were also told that we have to rent a pod in order to get any salvageable belongings out of the house so they can remove the floors and the walls. They told us this all needs to happen within 48 hours as the fumes will become toxic.”
Residents will be displaced for a considerable amount of time.
“We were told the work will take about three weeks,” said Ortiz. “So we will be stranded without a home for that time and have to pay for hotel stay, boarding, and a pod rental for any of our belongings etc.”
Officials at City Hall responded to the incident with concern, but stopped short of promising to cover the costs.
“The primary focus for City officials remains on the residents of the four impacted properties,” reads a statement released by the office of Mayor Gail Infurna.
“Unfortunately, the damage to the homes involved is extensive and could take days or weeks to repair,” the statement continues. “City officials will continue to monitor the situation, and remain in contact with the impacted residents. At this time, the cause of this blockage and the ensuing damage remains under investigation.”
Ward 5 Alderman Shawn MacMaster said he has been in close touch with affected residents.
“As the Ward Alderman and a Brazil Street resident, I am well aware of the significant trauma and property loss suffered by many of my neighbors,” MacMaster said in a statement. “I have personally visited the homes affected, witnessed the damage first hand, and provided what assistance I can. Although I have serious concerns and questions about what occurred leading up to this event and in the immediate aftermath, my primary focus now is to be a support system, resource, and advocate for the neighborhood.
“Over the last 30 hours, I have been in continual contact with the Mayor’s Office, the City Solicitor, the Superintendent of Public Works, and the Chief of Police. I have also communicated with residents on scene, over the telephone, and through email,” read MacMaster’s statement.
MacMaster insisted residents will receive whatever support they need from the city, presumably including financial assistance.
“This will be a long road, and I am grateful for the support the community has shown so far,” his statement reads. “In the days and weeks ahead, I will continue to work closely with the Administration to ensure that the neighborhood remains well-informed and that residents receive the emergency assistance and support services that they need and deserve. That work is underway and will be ongoing.”
SEWAGE BACKUP: People who live on Brazil St in Melrose say the DPW overpresurrized a blocked line which caused sewage to back up in to their homes. The residents say they have to shell out $ for cleanup until insurance covers. One resident caught it all on camera. @7News pic.twitter.com/e3kVWYZH7X
— Alex DiPrato (@AlexDiPrato) June 21, 2019
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