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Guest Commentary / Everett property disasters

Sewage 'flooding' must stop, be repaired

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By Michelle Murphy
To whom it may concern (Anybody? Hello?):
Here we go again! I live on one of the few hills in Everett. Consequently, I am now all too familiar with the Law of gravity.
Although my home sits at the base of Rucker Hill, it's on a bluff, and not a flood plain. Yet, has been "flooded" four times with raw sewage in the last five years. The most recent disaster on our street, first on Aug. 29 then again last Thursday, could have been avoided with the 2009-2010 sewer project when every street on the hill was cut open and the entire system replaced. In fact, I wouldn't be writing today, but for the city's "upgrade" project, which has rendered my home nearly uninhabitable, and our once charming street (the sidewalk and street replacement also a controversial disappointment) is now a disaster zone. The best option, to install a separate storm-water run-off, was rejected favoring a combined sewer system, though reportedly not "best practice," and not what we concerned neighbors wanted. It also came with the promise that what happened (twice) in 2008, to our property values, and shutting down our basic necessities for weeks, would "never" happen again.
This must be repaired and made right, as it should've been the first go 'round. It's easy to not take responsibility while searching for a scapegoat, and to threaten taxpayers with the cost to (re)install a proper system, but unfair to dismiss the gravity (pardon the pun) of the situation on our street, and sacrifice my home's livability, when it would've been cheaper to properly fix then. It's additionally unreasonable, even insulting, to be expected to pay property taxes for diminished value, mortgage payments on unusable square footage, and utility bills for service not received. Meanwhile, our property is destroyed every few years because of poor planning, emergency corrections, and last minute budgetary constraints causing corners to be cut. This, quite simply, is unacceptable!
I want my property made whole, not just for today but for the future, and ensured, with action not words, that this doesn't happen again, as promised. I was assured in 2008 that my family wouldn't be left without hot water and heat again, except for unpaid utility bills. This is not the case. Still, as of today I have no heat, no hot water, no fridge, and no washer-dryer while my children attempt to function and stay focused at school. It's been nearly two weeks and the cold weather is upon us.
There are many residents around the hill who sustained either catastrophic damage (like mine) or minor repairs & inconveniences due to sewage entering their homes since the big "fix." All are good neighbors just trying to stay dry who don't deserve an assault like this in the night. However, at issue today is my family's home, the only home my children know. We'd like to inhabit it without further interruption due to neighborhood poop shooting at full force through the pipes and invading our living space every few years. I'm not a homeowner whose rain-gutters tap into the sewer system. I'll happily sign onto the new rain-garden program. I rarely water our yard, and only clean my vehicle at the ca wash. My family is conscientious about water consumption and we try to do our part around water purity and conservation. My hope is that my city also does its part, and a solution is quickly forthcoming, rather than spending more time trying to spotlight who's to blame.
I'd also like to warn homeowners who complacently believe their policies cover against their homes being inundated by sewage of this magnitude -- that is sadly not true. Evidently, any homeowner on a combined sewer line, which is most of us, could unexpectedly be in my ruined shoes next time. I certainly don't wish this on anyone else. So while I'm not pointing my finger at any one individual, as I believe people to be compassionate, honest, hardworking and responsible citizens, I am, nevertheless, expecting my city representatives to timely step-up, and be proactive in making this right for me, and for all of my upstanding neighbors.
Thank you.

Michelle Murphy lives in Everett.

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