Almost a week after torrential rains combined with melting snow to cause flooding to the point where some Avon homes had raw sewage flowing into their basements, residents of those homes are still dealing with the damage.
It had already been a rough couple of months for Michael Vuicich. The North Doovys Street resident had undergone a knee replacement operation and spent several weeks at a rehab facility recovering before coming home in February. Then Dutch, the family's 12-year-old dog, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
And now he's facing the clean-up after raw sewage flowed into his basement. While he had a rider on his insurance to cover flooding in the basement, it will only cover $5,000 of damage. Viucich said the damage is already estimated at around $10,000.
One of the problems he faced while fighting to get the sewage out of the basement, Viucich said, was the solid materials, including toilet paper and feces. It often clogged the sump pumps, and he had to clear matters with his rubber glove-covered hands.
Because of his own health issues, he didn't want anything that had touched the raw sewage to stay in the house. So furniture, carpeting, tools and other goods all went in the trash. The Viuciches had also stored many items down in the basement for their daughter, who will soon be moving out of state for her nursing career. Some of that had to go, too.
"I saw people taking stuff from the curb," he said, shaking his head.
It was a little thing that hurt. Two vintage turntables he'd kept for listening to his old albums had somehow been set on the floor sometime. They went out on the curb.
A family disrupted
Tiphaney Lanham was glad to be back in her North Doovys home Sunday after she, her boyfriend Jud Cummins and their 1-year-old son Judson had to spend the week at Jud's parents' home. Over a foot of raw sewage flooded their basement, destroyed their furnace and hot water heater, and forced them to throw out almost everything in the basement.
Gone are precious items like Jud's photos and memorabilia from his days playing football for the University of Akron, baby clothes Judson had outgrown that Lanham was keeping for when they had their next child, Lanham's summer clothes that she stored down there, and Jud's drum set.
"We had stuff stored in plastic bins, you think they'd be safe," she said. "But you never think of raw sewage coming into your basement."
Also gone is much of their savings. They used their State Farm agent in Columbus when they bought the house two years ago, Lanham said, and that agent didn't know about Avon or that the neighborhood was prone to flooding. So they didn't get a rider to cover the basement, and are having to pay for everything themselves.
The furnace and hot water heater, Lanham said, cost about$6,000. Then there's the bill for renting the blowers and dehumidifiers to dry out the basement. And the cost of the plumbers pumping out the raw sewage. The laminate kitchen floor can be cleaned, she said, but the carpeting in the living and family rooms will have to be replaced because the workers walked on it coming out of the basment, getting raw sewage into the carpet. Judson can't crawl and play on that, she said.
Lanham feels residents haven't gotten a good response from the city as to what happened and why. She feels no one from the city reached out to flood victims in the aftermath.
"The only person who helped was from Alice Webber from Lorain County Emergency Management," Lanham said. Webber, she said, brought her an emergency cleaning kit to help get started.
Avon provided dumpsters in neighborhoods hit by flooding to help get rid of ruined items without having to pay Allied Waste to haul them away.
Tom Kelley, director of Lorain County Emergency Management, said getting government assistance for flood damage will be difficult. His agency has to find 25 homes that suffered major damage from flooding and that were uninsured.
The government's definition of flooding is when water enters the home from the outside through a wall or window, he said. Raw sewage floods don't count.
If anyone is having problems with their insurance company honoring their policy, Kelley said, call the Ohio Department of Insurance at 1-800-686-1526. A mediator there can assist you, he said.
Lanham plans to attend Monday's special meeting of the service and legal departments of City Council to hear what they have to say. The meeting is at 6:15 p.m. in council chambers at.
"I hope a lot of people go," she said. "We have to come together to make sure someone does something."
Viucich said the city also has to look at how it handles sewage now, with 75 percent of the city on the French Creek Interceptor with North Ridgeville, and what changes can be made to prevent this from happening again.
"I can't see how builders would want to build or people would want to come live here if they know this can happen," Viucich said.
Avon mayor Jim Smith, whose basement also flooded, said possibilities include changing lot sizes, putting restrictions on where basements can be built, and a moratorium on development in certain parts of town.
What will not happen, he said, is the city taking over wastewater treatment itself. How sewage is handled and where it goes, he said, is dictated by NOACA.
Kelley said that if your home wasn't affected, this is the time for an insurance check-up. Especially if you have a finished basement.
"Call your agent now," he said. "Don't assume you're covered, because you're probably not. Talk over the worst-case scenario, and plan for it."