BATON ROUGE — An Oleander Street homeowner is strapped for thousands of dollars after unsuccessfully trying to fix plumbing problems that have persisted for more than a year.
“Very frustrated,” said Wanda Owens. “[I] I don’t know who else to call, I don’t know what to do.”
Late last year, Owens’ tenant told her the toilets in the house weren’t working and the sinks backed up during heavy rains. Owens, who bought the house in 1999 and hadn’t had these issues before, called the city parish.
“They looked at the line and they said, ‘Well, the pipes, there was water coming into the pipes’ and he said that was our problem,” Owens said. “So we fixed that little section, and then it continued, the same thing.”
When it rained again, nothing changed. Sewage and water spewed out of the pipes, flooding the yard.
The city has always insisted that was Owens’ problem. So she paid thousands to replace the pipes all over the house.
“Over $5,000 to replace all of our sewer lines,” Owens said.
The work was completed earlier this year, but when the skies opened up on Monday, Owens realized that replacing the pipes did not solve the problem.
“You can see the [sewer cleanout] the ceiling exploded,” the Owens tenant said in a video posted to Twitter. “I didn’t delete that. It’s just rainwater and sewage flowing into our garden.”
A few days earlier, Owens said, Rick Speer, the city’s director of environmental services, told him what they found inside the parish’s sewer lines.
“He looked into the matter, and they found the one who expanded the government [Street] or whatever they do, they put asphalt in the [sewer] or something,” Owens said. “He said our property was draining in that area.”
In a statement to WBRZ on Thursday, the city seemed to acknowledge this.
City-Parish has been communicating with the affected resident since they made their first request for service. City-Parish has already removed debris and asphalt from the nearby sewer line, inspecting the line several times. Work will continue on this issue, which can only be conducted on weekends as lane closures are required. This is a great example of why it’s important not to put anything in our sewage system that doesn’t belong there. City-Parish suspects heavy rain and illicit connections are also contributing factors.
WBRZ went on to ask who dumped the asphalt down the drain and if it was related to the recently terminated Government Street road scheme. A city spokesperson replied “not sure”.
In September, after Owens had paid thousands of dollars for the work, the parish town, through a third-party claims management company, offered to settle with Owens by paying him $950 for the ‘ plumbing charges associated with a sewer backup”, without admitting liability.
She did not sign the agreement because the problem was not resolved.
Owens isn’t the only one on Oleander Street facing problems with rain events.
Two doors down, Brad Weems faces a different problem. He repeatedly observed parts of his front yard and the entire street submerged in water. He and other neighbors contacted the city several times about drainage maintenance.
“We got nowhere,” Weems said.