Annette and Carl Francis have been working nonstop for 14 hours, trying to save their Wellsville home from a sewer backup that is likely the result of storm water overwhelming the city’s sewer system. Raw sewage, including solid waste, is flowing through the Francis’ 1,500 square foot basement.
“At 10:30 last night,” Annette Francis said, “all of the water starting coming out of every sewer pipe that we have in our basement, from the clean-out to the toilet to our tub. It’s just coming up out of the floor, and it’s been doing it for about 14 hours. We lost all the carpet in our house, I mean in our basement. It’s all going to be pulled. We are getting solids from the city sewer line. I didn’t know the sewer could come up in your house. I didn’t know that could happen.”
The Francis home, located on Wellsville’s Main Street near 200 E., isn’t the only residence being impacted by the flooding. Francis said at least five or six of her neighbors have been affected, and Wellsville City’s manager, Scott Wells, has been allocating city resources to help mitigate the problem.
“We called him at midnight,” said Francis. “He’s been to our house numerous times. He gave us a pump from the city, and he has given us sandbags. He also just hired a truck to come pump the manhole right in front of our houses because it’s not just me. It’s all my neighbors. All of us are flooding.”
Francis has also called both of Cache Valley’s disaster cleanup companies and has been placed on their waiting lists. However, she said there isn’t much they can do until the water stops flowing. According to Francis, Wells indicated that her street is one of two Wellsville neighborhoods experiencing similar circumstances. There’s no way to tell how long it will take for the water to subside.
“I don’t know if this is going to do this for weeks or days or if my house is a complete loss,” she said. “I have no idea.”
Francis said there’s also no way to make the water stop.
“I’ve called plumbers, and none of them know how to help me block or stop it so we are just like—I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Wellsville City issued an announcement this morning instructing residents not to pump storm water into the city system. Francis believes the flooding in her home has been caused by people failing to comply.
“I just think too many citizens are putting their—their sump-pumps are running into the sewer and it’s just overfull. It’s just too much for the sewer to handle.”
A post in the “Wellsville Neighbors & Friends” Facebook group reminds citizens that it is a code violation to have sump-pumps hooked to the city sewer and instructs homeowners to remove their sump-pump drain connections from the municipal system and reroute drainage to ditches and lawns.
That doesn’t help the Francis family, whose eight children have been displaced as their parents pump sewage from their home, tear out carpeting and scramble to salvage belongings. Francis said every room in their basement has been affected by the flooding, and it isn’t covered by her homeowner’s insurance.
“It’s supposedly something you’re supposed to buy extra on your homeowner’s that I’ve never heard of,” she said. “It’s called a sewer backup plan and it costs almost more for that than my whole homeowner’s plan. I’m a little numb right now.”
As Francis and her neighbors continue to wade through the sewage in their homes, trying to mitigate the damage and their losses, she hopes people on higher ground will heed Wellsville City’s instructions so others don’t face the same circumstances.
“If people keep pumping and this spring is wet,” she said, “I don’t know if we can even live here. I might have to move.”