Tammy Swartz and Roy Weisz had just spent Christmas Day at the home of Swartz’s parents when they returned home to find an unwelcome, gag-inducing gift: a “fountain” of a toilet spewing sewage-laden water into the bathroom, spreading to other rooms of their rented basement suite on Chiefview Drive.
“It was crap and yeah, it was very toxic,” Swartz said of the smelly mess they discovered on Dec. 26 at 1:30 a.m.
“This is what the district has given us for Christmas,” Weisz said wryly.
The cause of the sewage backup that affected three homes in the Chiefview Drive/Harris Road area is under investigation, District of Squamish spokesperson Christina Moore wrote in an email to The Chief on Monday (Dec. 31).
A series of brief power outages on Christmas Day, affecting the wastewater treatment plant, may have contributed to the situation, Moore said.
“Throughout Christmas Day, crews responded to and corrected implications from the power outages to the best of their abilities and understanding of the situation at the time,” Moore wrote.
District officials were first made aware of the flooding in the Chiefview Road area on Dec. 26 at around 12:15 a.m., Moore wrote.
“The District is working with the affected homeowners through the follow up, and we are certainly empathetic to their situation,” she wrote.
After they discovered the mess, Swartz and Weisz found a sump pump at the house and began pumping out the water themselves. But by the time they arrived, water had spread to all rooms of the suite except one, seeping into the drywall and damaging some of the couple’s belongings.
Swartz and Weisz managed to reach a District of Squamish official that night. They were told that it appeared a district-owned pump had shut down, causing the backup. Later, another district official told them the cause was under investigation and that “it might have been a [nearby] homeowner who put something down there,” causing the backup.
Said Swartz, “It’s like they’re trying to avoid saying, ‘Yeah, we messed up.’”
While municipal officials haven’t determined the exact cause, “We do know enough about the situation to know that nothing was stuffed into a drain,” Moore wrote. “I’m not sure where that account came from.”
The first district official the couple reached advised them to get a hotel room for the next few days, which they did —finally settling into bed on Boxing Day at around 5 a.m. Swartz’s two young children, fortunately, had stayed at the home of Swartz’s parents that night.
Still, with Swartz on welfare and Weisz on disability, they can’t afford to stay in a hotel for long.
Swartz said she told the first district official they reached, “‘This is my rent money. I need to know I’m going to get reimbursed for this.’ But they couldn’t tell us.”
The couple has no renters’ insurance, but said their landlord has been understanding and has already filed an insurance claim.
In addition to contacting their own insurer, those affected by the backup are encouraged to fill out a Municipal Insurance Association claim form, Moore wrote. The two insurers would then investigate to determine the exact cause and ultimately, which insurer should cover the cost of repairs and out-of-pocket expenses.
As well, officials with the Ministry of Children and Family Development are available to provide support “to those displaced from their homes in such situations,” Moore wrote.
“The District has referred at least one affected resident to this resource for assistance.”