Five inches of muddy water flooded into Shannon Murphy’s Mount Lookout home during a rain storm on June 30, drenching her belongings. She thought she’d found the cause in the center of her basement floor: a broken sewer drain.
But a Metropolitan Sewer District inspector told her that the flooding hadn’t been the result of a sewer backup. The MSD inspection she requested deemed the damage “overland flooding": a type of flooding that occurs when water flows into a home from outside streets and sidewalks, rather than from a backed-up sewer system.
“They never set foot in our house, and they claimed that it was six inches of clear water that was in our basement,” Murphy said Tuesday. “And there would be no way for them to know this because they had never been in our home."
MSD executive director Diana Christy said the inspector did not enter Murphy’s home due to COVID-19 safety practices within the department. However, she added, inspectors don’t need to go inside to determine whether a sewer backup occurred.
“What we’re looking for is the backup and the conditions of the public sewer,” she said. "We essentially take the homeowner’s report as the accurate description of what’s inside the home. What we need to determine is, ‘Was our public sewer surcharged?’
“All the indications of that are in our manholes, in the actual cleanup if there is one, on the building’s sewer, and all things we can do from outside the home looking into the sewers."
MSD recorded 244 sewer backups during the June 30 storm. Most of the homes affected have been cleaned by MSD.
Murphy believes hers should be cleaned, too.
“We just want help … for the damage that’s done at no fault of our own,” she said.
She called an independent contractor, who agreed that there was a sewer backup. She claimed a second MSD inspector who visited on Friday also thought she was right, but a new report she received Tuesday did not identify the cause of the damage.
She’s worried about the cost of repair and recovery if she can’t get help from MSD.
"This is a life-altering amount of money that we're looking at,” Murphy said.