It was a flow of raw sewage that couldn’t be stopped, and when it had all settled, more than 2,000 gallons of it was in Rosemarie Payle’s basement.
The Duncan Road resident this week said she has grappled with a messy and horrible situation all throughout the past week, starting last Thursday when a sewage pipe backed up into her home.
“This was a haz-mat situation that demanded attention,” she said. “There was not any protocol to handle this kind of situation. My issue is there was no person to give me a hand. It was a bio-hazard. It was a series of unfortunate events. No one made this happen, but no one was trained or prepared to handle it either. My main point in all this is someone should have been ready to call a professional or a haz-mat team right when it happened. That isn’t what they did.”
Around 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 24, Payle – who lives with her infirm, 75-year old mother – noticed a backup in her home. She called the Housing Authority, which is the landlord there, to come and unclog the pipe as they often do.
However, this time was no normal circumstance.
At this point, it appears there was a broken sewage pipe further up the road that had built up pressure. When the Housing Authority contractor Wayne’s Drains unscrewed the cap to unclog the pipe, the pressure overwhelmed him and raw sewage poured into Payle’s basement.
“He unscrewed it and the pressure just pushed it up,” said Payle. “He said, ‘Oh no, oh no.’ I said, ‘Oh my God,’ and went and tried to grab some things. Then we both ran out of there. In seven minutes I had 2,000 gallons of sewage in my basement. It was 10 inches deep, with feces and toilet paper, too.”
Housing Authority Director Steve Kergo said the situation has resolved itself now, and he said the tenant was pleased as things stand now. They were able to call ServiceMaster later after problems continued through the weekend, he said. Initially, crews from the Housing Authority attempted to clean up the backup, which he said is a normal first protocol.
“We manager 670 units and we’re prepared and trained,” he said. “We’re not going to immediately move to bring in a company because we have limited funding. We do what we have to do.”
Kergo said he believed the original response was adequate because he hadn’t heard any complaints. However, later, he said it was on television and it came to his attention that the issue had not been resolved.
He also said they have handled these kinds of incidents many times, but maybe not on this scale. He said there is a definite protocol to the situation that was followed.
“Had we known there was still an issue, we would have been right out there again,” he said. “I heard it was on television and a councilor reached out to me as well.”
Councilor Michael McLaughlin said he reached out to Payle as he knows her, and was able to help get attention to the matter as well.
“I reached out to the family to see how I could be helpful or offer a helping hand,” he said. “I am very pleased with the response of the Everett Housing Authority once again stepping up to help fix this issue and help this family. I strongly believe the city needs to step forward and help put this family’s mind at peace by taking responsibility for this back up. It is a unfortunate situation that occurred, but we need to make it right for the Payle family.”
Payle said much of the things she lost in the basement – things covered in raw sewage – were not salvageable. On top of that, their value was mostly sentimental and things that couldn’t be replaced.
“My mother had a cedar hope chest down there that’s been in the family for generations,” she said. “It’s ruined. That cannot be replaced.”
She said she thanked McLaughlin, who was the only City official to reach out she said.
“He represents Ward 6 and I live in Ward 3,” she said. “Do the math. I didn’t get a call from the mayor or anyone.”
For Payle, the bottom line is she doesn’t feel the City is prepared for large problems on off hours.
“I love the City of Everett, but when it’s a Friday and a municipal building is closed, there is no place to turn,” she said. “We had an emergency here and what do you do in that case? There should be a hotline, and they should know who to reach out to. It seemed to me like people were unprepared or not trained to deal with this kind of messy situation.”