I-Team: Boston Families Stuck With Big Bills After Sewage Backup

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve

BOSTON (CBS) – A broken pipe in Allston sent raw sewerage spewing into the basements of several homes. And this didn’t happen just once. Five times over a two week period the same horror show repeated itself.

The Fitzgerald family contacted the I-Team after they received thousands of dollars in bills related to the cleanup, and an offer from the Boston Water and Sewer Commission that only covered a fraction of those costs.

The sewerage came in through their washer machine and a utility sink. Four inches of human waste covered the entire basement.

After the first incident on July 4th, Paula Fitzgerald told the I-Team a representative from Boston Water and Sewer said the problem was a clog caused by grease. “He told me that people pour grease down their drains to get rid of it, and that’s what happens.”

Their basement was just getting cleaned up, which cost thousands of dollars, when the basement filled with filth again. That was July 14th and the Boston Water and Sewer crews returned.

“The 14th, 15th and 16th we flooded every single day, every single day. When they came out on the 16th, they tell us that there is a broken pipe in the street, and it fell and cracked, and this is why we are flooding.”

Now the bills for the cleanup are pouring in and it isn’t even done yet. The Fitzgeralds had to take out a $10,000 loan. “They have more to do,” said Fitzgerald.

So far, the Fitzgeralds say the Boston Water and Sewer Commission is only offering them $2,800.

Officials at the commission wouldn’t talk to the I-Team on camera. A spokesperson did say in cases like this the commission does try to offer a reasonable settlement. She added, however, that in cases in which sewerage backs up, homeowners bear some of the responsibility. This means homes must be outfitted with a back flow preventer which stops anything from flowing the wrong way.

The Fitzgeralds have one however. It apparently got overwhelmed when the pipe in front of their house gave way.

Paula Fitzgerald is now juggling bills, and figuring out how to replace their washer machine and stacks of drenched clothes. Walls, ruined with mold, need to be rebuilt.

Boston attorney Erin Sinclair of Considine & Furey said any homeowner does have the power to bring a court claim.

Sinclair explained that state law does give an entity like Boston Water and Sewer protection against claims over $100,000. That’s why in most cases, it pays to be assertive.

“The plaintiff can make a demand; the entity can come back with a response. I think the goal is to meet somewhere in the middle,” explained Sinclair.

Send tips for the I-Team to iteam@cbsboston.com

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