'We're living in poop'

-A A +A

Sewage backs up in residents' apartments

By Scotty McDaniel

Monthly rent and water bill: $420

Cleaning gloves and bleach: $20

Scrubbing the bathtub clean only to have it once again fill up with raw sewage five minutes later: Disgusting.

If something smells off at Wesley Apartments, check the plumbing.

"We're living in poop," said resident Kristy Griffith. "There's no other way of saying it."

For the last two weeks, Griffith said toilets have been burping and bathtubs have been backing up with sewage in many of the C-apartments at Wesley Apartments off of Midland Trail.

"It'll go down for maybe a day, then it'll come right back up barely an inch from overflowing out of the tub," Griffith said.

Over the last couple of weeks, she said she has heard varied responses to her cries for help.

"I've heard different stories," she said. "I've heard 'there's nothing we can do because it's the main line that's backing up,' or other people say they've come and fixed it, but then it's stopped up again the next day."

One neighboring apartment has already flooded, she said, causing the residents to have to move out.

Griffith, who lives with her boyfriend, Bruce Casey, said she hopes they can find somewhere to move to before the sewage overtakes their possessions.

"It's hard to find somewhere because rent is so cheap here. But people can't live like this," she said, motioning to the still cruddy tub Monday.

Griffith and Casey are forced to take showers elsewhere and when nature calls she said she heads to the Thornton's gas station up the street.

"It's really unsanitary. We can't even take showers or use our own bathroom. We're paying $420 a month to live like this. It's ridiculous," she said.

Working with Family Home Health Care in Shelbyville, she's aware of the risks associated with exposure to sewage - such as hepatitis. Families with little children live next to her on the contaminated C-side of the building, and she said she worries that it's only a matter of time before something horrible happens.

"Somebody's going to get sick, and a lawsuit is probably coming their [Wesley Apartments] way," she said.

David Cammack, environmental director with the North Central District Health Department, said he was out at the Wesley Apartments last week to check out the sanitation of the building.

He said the property "kind of falls through the cracks of the city and the county," because it's actually located in the county but it's on city sewers.

"But we're not going to turn a deaf ear to anybody. We'll go check," he said. "The main reason we went out there was for a public health standpoint. This was a legit situation where there was a public health hazard."

He said he did see the sewage backing up in toilets and bathtubs, but someone was working on the problem while he was there.

"There was a plumber out there running a snake through the sewage line. While we were there they had the cleaning lady going around bleaching and sanitizing the area, and we did tell them the carpet was going to have to be removed," he said.

Talking to plumbers at the site, he said they believed the cause was residents "putting toys or baby wipes -- just too much stuff -- down the drains."

Tom Doyle, manager of The Shelbyville Municipal Water and Sewer Commission, said the source of the backup has to be at the apartments.

"There are many apartments tied in to common lines out there, so it must be an internal problem," he said.

Property owner Clark Property Management has not responded to calls from the Sentinel-News.

But on Monday Wesley Apartments Manager Orlando Lado said he believed the source was located and the problem was fixed, confirming that residents were flushing items they shouldn't have been.

"We pulled out hand towels and baby wipes [out of pipes]. We never had this problem before," he said.

But by Tuesday morning the solution to the problem appeared to have been premature.

"There was a guy running a snake through the line again [Monday]," Griffith said. "I don't know why they keep doing that because nothing has changed. This morning it was pretty much the same."

For the time being, she said all she can do is hope they fix the problem while she looks for somewhere else to live.

"We got a letter on our door saying they'll be shutting off the water to try and fix it," she said. "We're just going to have to wait and see, because you never know."

"$420 a month -- I could live in the sewer for free," she joked.