SEWAGE SPILL: Coon Rapids homeowners see big bills after backup - FOX 32 News Chicago

SEWAGE SPILL: Coon Rapids homeowners stuck with bill after backup

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One Coon Rapids neighborhood has certainly seen better days. Homeowners are facing bills for tens of thousands in damage after sewers backed up and spilled raw sewage into their basements -- and the city isn't paying for any of it.

Most folks know that flood insurance is an important thing to have, but a sewage rider is something the homeowners struggling with a smelly mess hadn't heard of before.

"We just finished this level of our home last May," lamented Dawn Brunner.

For about $100 a year, the homeowners would have been protected, but none of them were aware the option was available or necessary.

It's bad enough that they weren't covered by insurance, but when the city -- which owns and operates the water and sewage system -- said they were on their own in covering the costs, those residents were shocked.

Brunner told FOX 9 News she is still brought to tears thinking about the day her basement filled up with raw sewage.

"You have black water in your home -- you have people in your home in the middle of the night, plastic everywhere for 48 hours, running in and out and hoses," she recalled. "Your life is dismantled. It's horrific."

Her newly-finished basement was destroyed, and the clean-up alone cost nearly $7,000. It will cost her another $8,000 to rebuild and replace all the furniture that ended up in the dumpster, leaving her down in the dumps.

"Everything had to be tore out," she said. "All the hardwood floors, the walls. We lost a lot of our possessions."

Ida St. Clair, who lives next door, had to refinance in order to pay for the specialized clean-up. That's because her bill totaled $21,302.46.

"That's just cleaning," she stressed.

St. Clair said she has no plans to repair what was once a finished basement.

A letter from the League of Minnesota Cities, which insures Coon Rapids, is making matters worse by claiming that the city is not responsible by blaming the water main break on Mother Nature and the freezing temperatures winter brings.

On Thursday, a claims manager told FOX 9 News they failed to find any negligence in the design, construction, maintenance or inspection of the pipes -- but Brunner insists there is more to the story.

"My neighbor was told by a city worker -- he was having side conversations while this was going on -- telling him that this pipe was old," she said. "It was put in '69. It was rusted. It was leaking already. It should have been replaced."

The League of Minnesota Cities disputes the claim that there was a problem with the water main, saying it was a clean break with no evidence of corrosion. Furthermore, they say the city is not responsible for the ground movement that caused the sewers to back up.

As for homeowners insurance, it won't cover sewage back-ups unless a special rider is also bought. That was a tough lesson for Brunner and her neighbors to learn the hard way, and they now hope their plight will be a warning to others.

"It's just sad because I'm left with a large clean-up bill I have to finish paying on in 10 days, and if I don't, there's going to be a lien put on my home," she said.

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