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Residents want South Windsor to pay for sewage cleanup in home | South Windsor

Residents want South Windsor to pay for sewage cleanup in home | South Windsor

SOUTH WINDSOR — Homeowners who had sewage back up into their basements during Tropical Storm Henri are trying to hold the town accountable after its insurance denied a claim twice.

Rebecca Odell, who owns a home on Pine Tree Lane, said Aug. 22 that a power outage affecting a pump station on Benedict Drive led to a sewage backup in her basement, and neither the town nor its insurance agency have provided compensation to help clean it and restore the former living space.

Odell owns the home with her husband, Matt, a sergeant in the U.S. Army deployed in Kosovo.

Odell said a town crew showed up at her home and asked if there was sewage in her basement, which they pumped out. She said the crew told her it was a problem on the town’s end, and it would be taken care of on her behalf.

Odell said she knows of other homes that had flooded basements, but as far as she was aware, her home was the only building on the street to have a sewage backup.

“A flood is different, if it was just water, it sucks, but it dries up,” Odell said.

Odell said that in addition to tearing apart the floors and walls to properly sanitize the half-finished basement, much of the items and furniture there had to be thrown out.

“All the little things add up so quickly,” Odell said. She said even after it was sanitized she doesn’t want her two children to go into the “musky and gross” basement.

Odell said having to run heaters in her basement to evaporate moisture during a heat wave, while running air conditioners to keep her home comfortable, “spiked” her electricity bill over a matter of days.

Later in August, Odell said a claim was filed with Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency, or CIRMA, the insurance firm that represents municipalities.

Odell said town staff told her that the pump station equipment failed when the power went out and the resulting power surge damaged a power supply connected to its generator. The pumps shut down altogether and were brought back up within 15 to 20 minutes.

Odell said on Sept. 1 an adjuster told town staff that her claim would most likely not be covered because the power surge was a result of a storm, and not a failure of maintenance on the town’s end.

Odell said her claim was denied on Oct. 5, and again on Oct. 27 after the case was reopened. She said CIRMA denied the case over an “artificially generated electrical arcing event” as the cause of the equipment failure.

Odell said her husband contacted Rep. Thomas Delnicki, R-South Windsor, since they believed they weren’t being heard.

Delnicki said he has just under 32 years of experience working as a supervisor with the Metropolitan District Commission and that part of his work was maintaining pump stations in nine Hartford-area towns.

He said he asked town staff about the sewage backup in October, and a particular red flag that popped up was the age of the power supply connected to the generator at the pump station. It had last been replaced in December 2014, Delnicki said he was told by town staff.

“Industry standards are typically three to five years maximum battery life,” he said, adding that with the power supply being nearly seven years old, reliability of the system couldn’t be ensured.

Delnicki said that in an email he received on Oct. 28 from a CIRMA adjuster, the agency said it was not obligated to release any information on its investigation into the incident.

“I was shocked when CIRMA wouldn’t devolve how they made their decision,” Delnicki said, adding that it raises further questions of how the power supply failed.

Odell said she and her husband filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the town, dated Dec. 13, in an attempt to find information on “any investigation into equipment failures” at the pump station during the tropical storm.

“If the battery is seven years old, there’s a question there” of the town’s liability, Odell said.

Odell said the process of the insurance claims has been nothing short of difficult.

“I’m trying to take care of my house, take care of my kids, I work full-time, and now I have to deal with trying to get reimbursed for something that’s not my fault when I was told immediately it was being covered,” Odell said.

Town staff redirected inquiries regarding the incident, including service history of the pump station’s power supply, to Town Manager Michael Maniscalco, who did not return repeated requests for comment for this story.

Joseph covers East Hartford and South Windsor. He joined the JI in July 2021. Joseph graduated from the University of Connecticut and he is an avid guitarist and coffee enthusiast.