Woman suing New Albany over sewer main hidden under home - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Woman suing New Albany over sewer main hidden under home

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Sarah Homrighausen Sarah Homrighausen
Sarah Homrighausen's home in New Albany, IN. Sarah Homrighausen's home in New Albany, IN.
Shane Gibson Shane Gibson
The manhole in Sarah Homrighausen's backyard. The manhole in Sarah Homrighausen's backyard.

NEW ALBANY, IN (WAVE) – It was a stomach turning discovery for a southern Indiana woman when she found out that sewage from her entire block was funneling right underneath her $230,000 home.

Sarah Homrighausen said she had no idea the sewer main was there until a horrible flood sent waist high sewer water into her basement, and did tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage to her home. Now, Homrighausen wants local government to clean up the mess.

"It goes directly right down the middle," Homrighausen said as she pointed out the patch of the sewer main, which does not run under any other homes in the New Albany neighborhood. "This entire street and part of Charlestown Road goes underneath my house."

Homrighausen said sewer gas was her primary concern. "Chronic exposure to sewer gas, because you can smell it here."

The sewer main under her house was built in 1919. It is a practice that was eventually outlawed in New Albany. But back then it was allowed as long as the sewer main was noted on the deed to the property. But there was nothing written on the deed to Homrighausen's home when she bought it.

It wasn't until city-wide flooding on August 4, 2009 that Homrighausen realized she had a problem. She says she suffered around $50,000 in damage to her garage and basement when three feet of water and raw sewage backed up into her home. Three and a half years later, Homrighausen is still dealing with the mess.

"My life has been consumed with trying to figure out what to do next," Homrighausen said.

Homrighausen sued the City of New Albany alleging the city didn't have the legal right to have the sewer main on her land because it was never recorded in property records. City attorney Shane Gibson said New Albany was granted the required permission, known as an easement, when the sewer line was built.

"It looks like back in 1920 something fell through the cracks," Gibson said.

A mistake on the part of the developer led to the easement being left off the deed. That oversight meant Homrighausen had no way of knowing the sewer main was hidden below the home when she bought it. An error the City of New Albany never discovered in 90 plus years of monitoring and maintaining the sewer main. However, Gibson said it's the developer, not the city, that is to blame for what happened.

"I don't see anything that the city has done to create this problem," Gibson said.

After learning it didn't have proper clearance to have a sewer main Homrighausen's property, the City of New Albany decided to move it and is currently spending $30,000 in taxpayer money to rerouting it around her home. Homrighausen said even that has been a headache. As a result of the project she now she has a manhole cover in the middle of her backyard, to go along with everything else that has bubbled up from underneath the surface.

"It's been one thing after the other," Homrighausen said. "I think it's traumatizing to all of us."

Homrighausen is also suing the city for damages she suffered in that 2009 flood blaming the condition of the sewer line for the backup into her home.
Gibson said no sewer line could have handled the amount of water that fell that day and also claims some unlicensed plumbing work in Homrighausen's basement overloaded that sewer main and contributed to the problems. That work was done before Homrighausen bought the home.

Homrighausen thinks gas leaking from the sewer main is making her daughter sick. The city ran a camera down into the line to make sure it wasn't cracked, but could only get halfway through the sewer main. Inspectors said the part they could see looks to be ok.

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