SEWAGE BACKUP: Damages not covered in Mound

SEWAGE BACKUP: Damages not covered in Mound

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MOUND, Minn. (KMSP) -

It's been more than a month since sewage started backing up into basements in Mound, Minn., after a string of downpours, but the mess just won't seem to go away for those whose homes were damaged.

For weeks, residents have been waiting for word on whether or not the city's insurance will help them repair the damage left behind when the sanitary sewer system became overwhelmed. On Monday, all 31 homeowners learned the 42 claims they submitted won't be covered -- and that has them stuck with big repair bills.

Some homeowners' policies covered the cost of cleanup, but not repairs for all the damage. Now, adjustors for Mound's insurance company say the city is not at fault. There is no doubt that it seemed like the heavens opened up to deliver June's double wallop of rain, but homeowners argue that what actually happened was far from an "act of God."

"During my first backup, I was standing in 2-3 inches of sewage," Scott Thoma told Fox 9 News.

Thoma is among the 31 homeowners who filed claims against the city of Mound after his basement flooded with raw, untreated sewage. Over the weekend, he received a letter from the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust denying his claim because the city was not at fault when "severe rainfall" exceeded the capacity of the sanitary collection system.

"We've been thrown to the dogs," Thoma said.

The city knew it was in trouble when it took the unprecedented step of pumping millions o gallons of untreated "gray water" into Lake Minnetonka. At the time, city leaders hoped unloading the excess water would prevent additional homes from being affected by the sewage backup. The controversial decision did help many, but not all.

"It boggles my mind that no one's taking ownership and helping those who have been affected," Thoma admitted.

The finger-pointing began almost immediately after the pumps were put out. The city blamed Met Council's regional wastewater infrastructure, but Met Council says that Mound was contributing 6 times its daily average into the wastewater system during peak rainfalls.

"When you have a wet season like we've had, it doesn't take much to overload a system," Greg Skinner, Mound's former public works superintendent , explained.

Skinner retired in 2010, but before he did, the city began fixing the nearly 50-year-old system, which allows unwanted rainwater to enter the sewage pipes; however, he said the next step needs to involve addressing potentially expensive repairs to private property.

"The city still has trunk lines leaking," he revealed. "A lot of the house services, they weren't -- haven't been -- fixed."

In the denial letters sent to residents, Mound's insurance carrier called the city's response to the potential sewage back-up "quick and appropriate," sparing even more homes from being damaged. Yet, Skinner still wonders why residents aren't being taken care of since he says the city does have back-up insurance and was well aware of the potential for flooding.

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