Roanoke family forced out of home by sewage fumes - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Roanoke family forced out of home by sewage fumes

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ROANOKE, Ala. - Fumes from raw sewage in the basement of a Randolph County house sent the homeowner to the hospital Friday.

Charles Ester said sludge started to spew into the bottom floor of his house on April 11.  There was some sewage repair work up the hill from Ester's home at Handley High School, and tubing ran from a manhole by the school to the manhole by his house.  Ester and his wife Evella believe the work there led to the overflow in the pipe under their house.

It previously happened in 2007 but this was the first time since.  The Roanoke Utilities Board sent a team from Servpro to clean the sewage last week.  Workers cut off lower parts of some of walls due to contamination, and Ester said some of the wood frame and supports may need replacement.  Once the crew got the basement clear, it flooded again.

There is a tarp at the bottom of the basement stairs to try to prevent fumes from getting to the main floor, but Ester became overwhelmed by the odors on Friday.  An ambulance took him to the hospital.

"The hospital physician at the emergency room just basically told us not to be in the house for too long a period because of carbon monoxide," Ester said.

He wore a protective mask over his nose and mouth while inside the home Monday.  Evella kept hers on while outside as she tried to determine what items could be saved from sewage damage.

"We heard the sound first of all.  It sounded like gushing water," Evella Ester said.

"[Charles] went downstairs.  He came back up, and then you smell all the gases, the foul smell, and we left the house," she said.

"Then Sunday night we just saw this gushing water just come through our house, and we were just standing there hopeless.  I said to myself, "Now I know what it feels like when a person has a fire."  You're just standing there helpless."

Jerry Revis, the general manager of the Roanoke Utility Board, said the problem is not the city's sewage line.  He said a sewage access flange in the basement needs to be capped.  The liquid and debris comes in to the basement through that pipe.

However, Ester said capping the flange will only make things worse.  He said the incoming sewage would then go up his outgoing sewage pipe to the upstairs bathrooms, bedrooms, and kitchen.

"Why put a band aid on something, when it's going to come again," Ester said.

He hired a plumber to check his personal sewer line Thursday, and the plumber determined the line to be clean and connected.  Ester said that showed the city line is the problem.

Revis said he could not provide additional comment as the Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation is handling the situation.

A worker at AMIC also said the next step is to cap the pipe flange in Ester's basement.  The insurance corporation sent the ServPro crew to do the initial clean-up, but the AMIC employee said they would not do anything further until the flange is sealed.

The Esters are concerned about the risk that may pose to their main floor.  They are staying at a motel while their house airs out.
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