If it was stormwater flowing into her basement after two days of heavy rain, it might be an act of God.
But when for the second time in two years 8 inches of city sewage flowed into her house through a drain basin and her shower, Natacha Nicholas sees an act of negligence by city planners.
“This is not acceptable,” Nicholas said Saturday as she worked to clean the damage from the sewage backup that flowed into her finished basement overnight Thursday as the second day of heavy rainstorms dropped several inches of rain on the already saturated ground.
During the second day of storms, the city’s sanitary sewer system was overwhelmed, forcing the city to dump sewage into Lake Michigan.
Nicholas was out of town Thursday and received a call from a friend who had stopped in to check on her house. “She called me and said ‘Natacha, oh my God it smells so bad.’”
She said she returned home Saturday morning to find her basement — not yet fully restored from the last city sewage overflow in 2017 — had water marks up to about 8 inches. Although the sewage water had receded back down the drains, it left behind a slick of slime.
Nearly everything the sewage had touched — including two new couches, beds for visiting relatives, new bathroom vanities and drywall — will have to be taken out or torn out and thrown away.
On Saturday, with the help of a friend and her former husband Phillip Nicholas, she cleaned up what she could and loaded a rented trailer with what couldn’t be saved. Insurance will only cover a fraction of the financial loss.
“This is the third time this has happened. It happened in 1997 and now two times in the last two years,” Nicholas said. She said she has had the lateral lines that lead from her house to the city sewer lines replaced, so she knows the problem isn’t originating on her property. “It’s my responsibility to maintain the lateral lines,” she said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to handle the sewer system.”
“The city is using our basements as their excess capacity reservoirs and they keep doing it,” she said. Nicholas said she thinks the city needs to solve the problem or pay residents who have backups. “They’re saying they are so sorry … but please, Mr. Mayor, let me come dump this crap in your basement.”
Cleaning up in Paddock Lake
In Paddock Lake, residents were cleaning up after flooding closed streets and flooded basements.
Longtime resident Joe Swanson said he spent two days trying — and failing — to keep flood water from filling the lower level of his house. He said, because of frequent flooding in the past, he has two sump pumps, a generator to make sure they keep working in a power outage, and used sandbags to try to keep water from coming in patio doors.
“I’m tired of replacing my floors,” he said. “This is like the fourth time this has happened.”
Swanson faults the village of Paddock Lake for the problem, saying the village needs to come up with a better way to handle stormwater in a community that has had frequent flooding. He said the problem is especially frustrating because village residents pay high sewer and water fees.
He would like to see the village address the stormwater system by slowing the flow of water through a large culvert under Highway K, with the water flowing from open fields on the north side of K into the lower residential areas south of K.
“You can just stand there and watch 1,000 gallons of water a minute flood through there,” he said. “They need to build a retention pond and slow the water down.”