Monday, August 27, 2001

Sewer line break may bring suit

Sewage, mold in homes still uncleaned

By Cindy Schroeder
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FORT MITCHELL — Two Avon Drive home owners say their 8-month-old dispute with Northern Kentucky sanitation officials will end up in court if they can't get their properties restored to the way they were before a Dec. 18 sewer main break.

        On this much, the two parties agree: The collapse of a deteriorating 30-inch sewer force main just before Christmas sent nearly 600,000 gallons of wastewater onto four properties on the quiet residential street.

        For most of the past eight months, property owners David Tyson and Kevin Curl say they have battled Sanitation District No. 1 and its insurance adjuster over everything from cleanup to compensation.

        Both sides have accused the other of lying, and they have questioned each other's and motives.

        “The bottom line is, the sanitation district's damaged my house, and if they don't pay, I'm going to take them to court,” Mr. Tyson said. “I want my house back the way it was.”

        In February, about two months after the spill, Mr. Tyson and Mr. Curl say they found mold growing on their bedroom walls — a complaint the head of the sanitation district said he learned of in July, after the two contacted the media.

        Two other property owners affected by the spill have worked with the sanitation district, and preliminary results of environmental tests done in July indicated the properties now have no contamination and are clean “inside and out,” sanitation officials said.

        Mr. Tyson and Mr. Curl also maintain the sanitation district has not yet removed standing wastewater and contaminated soil from crawl spaces of their homes.

        Jeff Eger, general manager of Sanitation District No. 1 — which serves Kenton, Campbell and all of Boone counties except for Florence — denied the men's claims. He maintains his office has gone “above and be yond” its duty to clean up the damage and compensate the affected home owners.

        Mr. Tyson said he's received about $1,500 of the $32,000 he sought for the repair and cleaning of his home, and damage that included a flooded storage shed filled with tools and equipment.

        Mr. Curl maintains he's owed $3,423 for items such as the cleaning of his deck and siding, utility bills for the 14 days his family was housed in a motel, tetanus shots for family members and a hospital bill for treatment after he was exposed to chlorine gas when he removed his pets from his home while it was being disinfected.

        Mr. Eger said about $30,000 in claims has been paid to the owners of the four affected properties in the 2500 block of Avon Drive — everything from motel stays during the cleanups of their properties to veterinary bills, new insulation and replacement of damaged items, such as firewood.

        The Hart family, whose home was affected by the spill, could not be reached for comment, while Jerry Kerr, whose house is between Mr. Tyson's and Mr. Curl's, said a drainage device deflected much of the overflow from his property.

        Mr. Eger said a firm hired by the sanitation district's insurer recently was denied permission to enter the Tyson and Curl properties for an environmental assessment. Without that assessment, he said there is no way to determine the validity of their claims.

        Both Mr. Tyson and Mr. Curl said they didn't allow the insurance adjuster to let an environmental assessment firm on their properties because they didn't trust him or any firm he would hire.

        Mr. Tyson produced records of a Feb. 19 inspection and testing for fungal and fecal coliform contamination done by an environmental firm that he hired.

        The inspection, by Tencon Inc. of Milford, found molds on his walls that could cause watery eyes and sneezing.

        The firm recommended removing the home's damp fiberglass insulation to expose the wood, and treating fecal coliform bacteria, an indicator of the presence of sewage, human and/or animal waste, found in Mr. Tyson's basement crawl space with a disinfecting agent.

        Megan Grabos, spokeswoman for Kemper Insurance, the parent company of the sanitation district's Arizona-based insurer, said the insurer wants to have its own environmental inspector check all four properties affected by the spill, but has been unable to check the Tysons' and the Curls' because of lack of cooperation.

        “We need to perform our own tests (on the four properties) to assess the damage accurately,” she said.

        “The insurance company is going to make one more request to get onto their properties to close the claim, and if they can't get onto the properties, the case will be closed,” Mr. Eger said. “There's not much more we can do.”


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