June 30, 2005

Shit Happens.

This story is not for the weak stomached. If you are easily nauseated or have delicate sensibilities, please do not read this story. Stop reading now and skip to the next post. If you keep reading, you’ve been warned. I’d put this in an extended entry, but I don’t like the way they look right now and I don’t have time to play with the HTML.

Last night after dinner, I was sitting out on the front porch with my wife and our friend Anathematized. My neighbor from across the street comes over and asks me if I had a problem in my basement. He said that the Rock River Water Reclamation district had been out here earlier in the day working on the sewer. He tells me that they had come out to do a routine cleaning and had hooked a hose up to the fire hydrant. They then proceeded to squirt this high-pressured water into the sewer. When they did so, they back washed raw sewage into his basement. He was coming over to advise me to check mine.

It was a hot day, in the 90’s; I figured if I had raw sewage in my un-air conditioned home that I would have smelt it. To play it safe I put on my shoes and went to check. I opened the door to the basement. A hot pungent smell assaulted my senses. I mumbled, “Shit.” I wasn’t trying to be literal. I go down the stairs and turn the corner towards our washer and dryer. Stopping dead in my tracks I exclaim, “HOLY SHIT!” However, there was nothing holy about this fecal matter. There on the floor of my basement is three inches of fecal matter!

I have a limestone walled basement, thus I get a lot of moisture down there in the summer, even in a drought. We have two dehumidifiers to battle this problem. With the extra “moisture” both had filled up and kicked off. Combine the moisture with the heat of the fecal matter and the already hot temperature; you have a sewage sauna. For the first time that I owned my house I was glad that when some previous owner decided to replace the basement floor with concrete; that they didn’t do a good job. The floor is uneven and tends to slant, not intentionally, toward one corner. Most of the raw sewage was contained to about a third of the basement, up to the ankle at the deepest point. Trust me on the depth, *I* know. Unfortunately, there are all kinds of raises and hollows, including a dike that keeps water from flowing into the floor drain.

The sewage was puddled over the floor drain, yet it wasn’t draining. I needed that drain to work or there was no way for me to clean this up. Taking one look at the work boots I’ve owned for two years I mumbled, “I need new shoes anyway” and stepped on in. As I waded toward the drain, I noticed it was getting deeper and deeper. This is how I know it was ankle deep… I was thankful for the waterproof work boots. I get to the drain. I can’t see anything through the thick dark sewage. Using a squeegee broom I had as a lever, I removed the cap from the drain. This caused a whirlpool of this chocolaty looking substance… with peanuts. I then ran our hose down the basement and started to squeegee and rinse out the fecal material. I own a five-gallon shop vac, but it was easier to use the squeegee broom and push it down the drain. My wife had picked two of these brooms up at the Boone County Faire last year… I can honestly say they are the best investment I’ve made in a cleaning tool… EVER! It would scrape the floor clean and then watch, as the poo water would fill back in. If I had used the shop vac, I would have had to empty it more often and probably make a bigger mess. All was going well until the fluid stopped going down the drain. I tried to see if any big… chunks… had clogged the pipe. Nope, that didn’t work. I sent my wife for my snake. Failure again, I don’t have a large industrial snake for pipes that big, it just wasn’t strong enough to “grab” onto the problem. It did tell me though that the clog wasn’t very deep in the pipe. I grabbed the only latex gloves I had put them on. These gloves were first aid gloves that only went to my wrists. I prayed the raw sewage wasn’t that deep as I reached for the hole. Wait… you don’t think I’m sticking my hand down there do you?!?!? Are you kidding me? That is other peoples urine, feces, used toilet paper, used tampons and whatever the hell else the flushed. I used the Shop vac I told you about earlier and sucked the damn fluid out of the drain. When I did so I was able to fit the nozzle far enough down the pipe to grab and remove the obstruction. Yes, it is what you are thinking of; no, it didn’t look like a baby ruth!

While cleaning I discovered that the point of origin was the toilet I have in the basement. Apparently, it exploded out of the bowl like geyser spraying all over the walls and tank. The area around the toilet looked like it was hit with by sCategory 3 hurricane!

Fortunately, most of the stuff that we store in the basement is in Rubbermaid containers. We only had three cardboard boxes that were ruined. However the items on the inside where undamaged we just pitched the boxes. We did have some laundry that was stacked on the floor that was ruined, including some re-enacting costuming. Other items needed cleaning. I think we probably lost about $500.00 worth of items. Moreover, three hours of my life I’ll never get back that I spent wading in shit. Excuse my language please I’m still pissed off. (Pun not intentional.)

After the clean up I looked up information on the Rock River Water Reclamation District. They have a “24 hour 365 day a year” emergency number for back ups. I called that only to find the number is disconnected. I called them this morning during business hours and spoke with a supervisor to file a complaint. I was told that they do a routine cleaning of the pipes every 5 years. They where called out yesterday because they where told there was a back up. They use a high-pressure water system to clean these clogs out of the sewer. It usually only takes 1-2 tries with this system to move the clog, however this time they had to use 4 attempts to dislodge it. If the pipe leading to your house is by where the clog is it can force the water back up the pipes and into your basement. Clogs caused by Tree Roots, grease or objects flushed down a toilet do not constitute negligence on their part. (I do agree that they are not responsible for someone pouring grease, condoms, and toys down the drain or doing la caca grande) They do not clean up messes that are made. If I feel that my issue was a result of their negligence then I can file a claim with their insurance.

Since it exploded out of my toilet, I feel this was negligence. As a reasonable person if a normal clog only takes one or two attempts to remove it, I would have thought they would have attempted to use the auger the supervisor told me about instead of continuing to blast raw sewage into people’s basements. I figure if I file and they deny, then at least I tried. What’s the worse that’s going to happen? They back more sewage into my basement.

Speaking of which when the supervisor called me back he told me that they were still having problems in that neighborhood and where out there again today working on it. That means that I could come home to another Fecal Funland in my basement.

Posted by Contagion in Things that make me go, "GUH?!?!" at June 30, 2005 01:10 PM

Could have been worse. You could have been sitting on the toilet.... hehehe

Sue those fuckers.

Posted by: Graumagus at June 30, 2005 12:35 PM

I think they are responsible regardless, it is a "but for" scenario. Sue em! Or shit on em, paybacks are a bitch after all!

Posted by: Oddybobo at June 30, 2005 12:39 PM

I do see negligence, but I'm not about to hire an attorney to attempt to go after these guys, nor am I going to take the time from work to file small claims.

The negligence I see comes from the incompetance of the employee. I just dont see this going in my favor no matter how you cut it.

Posted by: Contagion at June 30, 2005 01:46 PM

Whoa! Do you have a small claims court? Just a thought.

Posted by: vw bug at June 30, 2005 01:51 PM

Wow, that's shitty luck.

Posted by: Machelle at June 30, 2005 02:41 PM

*shudders in horror at the memory of last night*

Honestly, I didn't even read more than the last sentence of the post cause you grossed me out so badly yesterday when I was THERE.

Like I said, repeatedly, they could have at least mailed out notices to people in the area. Most people wouldn't have known if that guy hadn't come over and said something.

But, I feel sorry for the first person walking into that house across the street that's been boarded up for weeks.

Posted by: Anathematized1 at June 30, 2005 07:41 PM

Take'em to the cleaners... or at least the squeegee'ers.

Posted by: That 1 Guy at June 30, 2005 08:31 PM

I can't believe you are so semi-calm. You handled that very well.

And now I agree with the others, you should file a claim and if that doesn't work...sue them. Especially since there was damages to your stuff.

I'm sorry! :-(

Posted by: Sissy at June 30, 2005 09:59 PM

USE BLEACH!!!! I hope you managed to take poop pictures....I hope you call those f-ers in the morning....that bites ass

Posted by: ArmyWifeToddlerMom at June 30, 2005 10:33 PM

So... how CAN you keep from getting flooded if they do another high-pressure flush? Is there a valve you can shut off? Do you just jam a plunger way down in the bowl?

Posted by: Harvey at July 1, 2005 10:34 PM

I'm suddenly feeling pretty damn good about being on septic... We'll never get sewer out where I am. If my septic backs up, its OUR sewage... and I know exactly where it backs up and the warning signs.

Yeah, I'll pass on that. Plus, damn, we don't have basements. That means we would have had fecal matter all over our living space. Blech.

Posted by: Bou at July 2, 2005 08:58 AM