Columbia man pushes the city to help solve sewer problem

AP

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Instead of spending Memorial Day weekend at the airshow and the Memorial Day Parade, Dennis Payne had to sort through clothes, children's toys and mementos ruined by the raw sewage that flooded the basement of his Blue Ridge Road home.

Payne said his wife Lindsey came home around 8 p.m. on May 21 to find that the garage and basement of their split-level home had been flooded with sewage caused by a clogged line. Payne said the problem was caused by a clog in a common collector line, which is a private sewage line that's not maintained by the city of Columbia.

The home, on Blue Ridge Road between Oakland Gravel and Brown Station roads, became part of the city in a 1964 annexation. The line was constructed in 1966, but was not built to code. Payne said the city acknowledged that the common collector was not built to code and has a program in place to buy approximately eight miles of private sewer line.

He tried to get on the waiting list for the program, but the waiting time is 10 years. He also needs to sign a petition and is unsure if he needs one signature or all of his neighbor's signatures. Payne said he is frustrated with the city because he believes it should incorporate these private lines and common collectors. Not doing so, he said, is unfair to him and the other community members on these private lines.

"There should not be a reason for the city not to incorporate these lines," Payne said.

Patricia Weisenfelder, the city's community relations specialist for sewer, stormwater, solid waste and sustainability, said there are more than 39,000 feet of private common collector lines throughout the city. Projects now under construction or design would replace approximately 10,000 feet of these common collector lines with public sewers.

Payne has not been the only property owner affected by this common collector. Stanley Diaz owns the apartment building behind Payne's house on Leeway street and is also served by the common collector. He said water has backed up into his basement. He said he had to fix it himself.

"My experience with getting the city to fix something is nill," Diaz said.

Diaz was not aware of this problem when he bought the property around 25 years ago.

"We assumed the city covered all sewage, not just some," Diaz said.

Payne said he has an option of installing a one-way valve. The one-way valve would prevent sewage from flooding his house again, but might cause flooding in his neighbor's house. He doesn't want to do this; he says he doesn't want anyone else to go through what he went through.

However, if the city is not able to fix it before the beginning of the school year, he'll install one because he wants to sell his house, and move to Kansas City for his job.

He lost many personal possessions because of the flood, such as the shirt he wore on his first date with Lindsey, his military shoes and his debate shirts from high school. The flood caused damage to his finished basement, which was finished as a playroom for his kids. The drywall and carpet had to be cut away, and the doors had to be removed.

"When I say I don't want anyone to have sewage in their basement, I mean it," Payne said. "You can not clean it well enough to get your possessions back."

Supervising editor is Mike Jenner.

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