N. Payne Street residents want answers for sewer backup

NEW ULM – It’s a home owner’s worst nightmare.

As the rain falls outside, the water rises inside. This situation became reality for several residents on North Payne Street during last week’s storm. The sewers of more than a dozen houses backed up in the 1300 and 1400 blocks.

“It’s the biggest disaster I’ve ever seen,” said North Payne Street resident Larry Johnson.

The damage sustained to his finished basement was extensive. The cost alone to hire a cleanup was $3,800. The cost of replacing carpeting and furniture will be even higher.

“Sewage is toxic. Everything it touched, we have to throw out.” The problem is compounded by the fact that insurance does not cover damage cause by sewer backup. “I thought we were insured for this,” Johnson said.

Johnson’s neighbor Bob Eckstrand said his home suffered similar damage. And like many North Payne Street neighbors, he only learned after the fact that his insurance would not cover the damage. Eckstrand estimated that at least 13 homes on North Payne Street suffered sewer-related damage. Few have insurance to cover this type of disaster.

Repair and cleanup costs aside, North Payne Street residents are beginning to question how the backup happened.

Asked for a comment on the North Payne Street sewer backup, Curt Curry of the New Ulm Street Department stated that flooding and sewer backups had been reported throughout the city and were the result of flash flooding.

For Johnson and Eckstrand, this does not explain why the sewer damage was limited to the even side of Payne Street or explain why residents on North Jefferson Street have not reported any problems.

Johnson and Eckstrand are claiming that immediately after reporting the sewer backup, a City employee said the backup was caused by the City redirecting waste water from Garden Street. At this time Johnson and Eckstrand are considering filing a class action suit along with other neighbors to cover the cost of the damage to their basements.

“This isn’t about coming out ahead,” said Eckstrand. “This is about getting back to normal.”

Johnson said the incident had taken an emotional toll on his family. The two neighbors added that they want peace of mind that sewage backup will not happen in the future.

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