Homeowner, tenant frustrated as Northside basement festers with 3-ft. of sewage

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RICHMOND, Va. -- A Northside Richmond basement festers with three feet of foul smelling liquid that has been there a week.

“Oh my God, my friends are there living in this filth,” said homeowner Ed Pope.

The disabled dialysis patient is struggling to determine how the flood happened, without draining his already strained wallet.

His renters -- who are his friends -- Robert and Sandy Manly, just had a plumber service the pipes on the home in December, after they noticed some water that hadn’t drained.

 A Northside Richmond basement festers with three feet of foul smelling liquid that has been there a week.

A Northside Richmond basement festers with three feet of foul smelling liquid that has been there a week.

“We had a plumber come out here and snake the line as best he could and he said he snaked it out to 100 feet, that’s as far as he could go, and he said if it’s any further than that more than likely it’s going to end up being DPU’s line,” said renter Robert Manly.

So they were shocked on Dec. 29 to wake up to three and a half feet of liquid.

“This is sewage, this is not water,” said renter Sandy Manly.

The flooding has receded some, but the problems have only mounted.

“You can obviously smell it all along the first floor, starting to sneak up to the second floor,” Manly said. “Can’t go in the basement for anything. I am afraid to cook anything here and there is no heat.”

The high water has destroyed the compressor on the home’s heater in the basement.

“What they are trying to say is it’s us and not sewer,” Manly said.

“I called my insurance company and they said we really need to determine what the failure is,” said Pope. “I called Richmond Department of Public Utilities, got no response and that made it all worse,” added Pope.

 A Northside Richmond basement festers with three feet of foul smelling liquid that has been there a week.

A Northside Richmond basement festers with three feet of foul smelling liquid that has been there a week.

“An acting supervisor came out, brought a couple guys with him, didn’t really do anything on the line,” said Manly. “They said there was really not much they could do on their side but they could jet the line and see if it opened anything on that.”

CBS 6 reached out to DPU, and the agency said it cannot discuss specific customer accounts, but provided the following statement:

The general procedure followed by the Sewer division of Richmond’s Public Utilities Department of Public Utilities when we receive calls about sewer backups in a residence is as follows:

Step #1 – A wastewater/sewer technician is sent to the location where the backup has been reported. The technician will first check the city’s main sewer line from manhole to manhole in the vicinity of the sewer service to see if the sewer service in that area is working.

Step #2 – If a blockage is found, DPU will do the following (depending on the extent of the blockage)

1 – Jet flush the line.  This is the use of a high pressure water hose in order to unstop the sewer main.

2 – Use a closed circuit TV camera (cctv) and place it in the sewer main and run it the length of the sewer main to view where the blockage is coming from.

3 – Snake the line.  This is the use of a motorized auger that is inserted into the line where the blockage is found

These methods are used when the blockage is determined to be on the city side of sewer line.

If the blockage is assessed and determined not to be on the city side of the sewer line, as a courtesy, the city will run a snake or CCTV the line from the interior of the property or from the resident’s side of the property.

In order to do this, we must have signed permission from the property owner and there must also be an available access point from which to run the snake or insert the CCTV. City of Richmond employees will not go into situations that are deemed unsafe

Note:  New homes are equipped with a clean-out on their sewer line on the house side of the sewer line as an access point to perform this type of assessment.  Many older houses do not have a clean-out and can be accessed from inside the home from a floor drain.

Step #3 -- When blockages are determined to be on the customer side of the sewer line, it is the customers responsibility to have a licensed plumber to come out and make a professional assessment of what needs to be done.

If needed, the city will return to the residence following the residence being made safe and to make further assessment regarding the location of the blockage.

 A Northside Richmond basement festers with three feet of foul smelling liquid that has been there a week.

A Northside Richmond basement festers with three feet of foul smelling liquid that has been there a week.

“We need to have all that water flushed completely out of that system down there. We need microbial down there to clean everything in that basement,” said Manly. “We just want to be able to live again we have the gas turned off right now from DPU because we can’t run the gas line in here at all. If we run it and that burner is not up and running it could cause a gas leak explosion.”

“My concern is I don’t want them sick I don’t want them ill from this. It’s smelly, it’s horrible,” said Pope. “I had to make a decision. I had to get that fluid out. I have no choice, I have to get that wastewater out,” said Pope.

Pope found a company to start draining the liquid without any money up front but he’s hoping to get more answers and help from the DPU.

“That would go a long way for me at least to figure out what happened. Obviously, you don’t want to wake up in the morning look down your basement and see three feet of standing water or waste how does that happen?” said Pope.

“Who’s fault is that? It’s not the house and they’re the ones maintaining the waste water removal system,” he added.

A GoFundMe has been created to help get the house back in serviceable condition.

The CBS 6 Problem Solvers are here to help. Just contact us at our dedicated tip line at (804) 254-3672, or email us with details at Problemsolvers [at] wtvr [dot] com.