Whether it’s clean-out or court, Regent Park residents just want a clear path.
Xavier Tufty, one of several residents impacted by a June 6 sewer line clog that backed up sewage into homes, told York County Council last week he and neighbors would prefer avoiding litigation. But if the county won’t help toward the roughly $145,000 in damage to three homes, legal action is the next step.
So far, he said, the county hasn’t said whether its water and sewer department will take responsibility. Homeowners can’t move forward with clean-out plans from a third party as they wait to see what the county will do. Council didn’t comment on the issue following Tufty’s explanation of the problem at an Aug. 15 meeting.
A county spokesperson earlier this month said the claim was turned over to an insurance reserve fund for evaluation.
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According to residents, three homes on Shoreham Lane were impacted. An engineering team came out and found the eight-inch sewer line had a three-foot clog. A report back to homeowners left Tufty believing a “complete lack of maintenance” was to blame.
“It basically was the result of a backup in a sewer line that had not been maintained since the sewer line had been taken over by the county back in April of 2004,” he said.
The insurance group looking at the claim, Tufty said, denied responsibility.
“Our claim has been denied by the South Carolina Insurance Reserve Fund, and the county water department seems to believe that it was the fault of the developer prior to the turnover, not making sure that the sewer lines were actually built properly,” Tufty said.
He argues there is nothing residents could have done to avoid the problem. Even had they suspected a problem, they couldn’t have gotten to it without tampering with county property.
“This is not something that we had any means to be able to correct on our own,” Tufty said. “We had no way of being able to know there was a problem until it actually existed.
The county bears responsibility, Tufty argued, even if lines were faulty from the beginning.
“Our view is if the sewer lines were installed incorrectly, then they should not have been taken (into) possession by the county,” he said.
Residents used public information requests to find there were no maintenance records for the line. Tufty found a county commercial sewer line maintenance program, he said, but nothing for residential lines. He believes residents did nothing out of the ordinary to cause the recent problems.
“(It) was a result of what they deemed to be years worth of accumulation of food, oil and grease,” he said of the engineering report. “Which, by my view, was basically an accumulation based on normal daily living activities that our families would go through.”
Danielle Chambers, another resident impacted by the blockage, has been looking into water testing and other related issues since the pipe problem. Residents say county staff hasn’t been out to the area since the spills, but contractors have. One morning Chambers noticed water valves being replaced at homes nearby.
“Seems to me that they wouldn’t be replacing something that wasn’t faulty or worn out,” Chambers said.
Residents don’t want to cost themselves or taxpayers the money it would take to fight the repair issue in court. So they want to know, one way or the other, what they county will do to avoid it.
“We want to be able to settle this without having to go to court,” Tufty said.