“I thought it was a backup,” said Mike Nelson of Marietta. “My plumber (Paul Clark) said ‘No, this is a tsunami.’ He said it’s black. ‘This thing exploded. It shot up like a geyser.’”
“The amount of damage was large to all exposed hardwoods, sheetrock, baseboards, cabinets and appliances having contact with the sewage,” Nelson said about the 1958, two-bedroom, one-bath ranch home at 360 N. Fairground St.
The sewage came from the bathroom in early April, prompting his tenants to flee the rental property, Nelson said.
Initially, the city helped in the aftermath, sending out first Water Department Superintendent James Wells, then George Salhuana Jr.’s ServiceMaster Restoration Services on April 16, and paying more than $4,400 for cleanup.
Then things stalled.
“ServePro called and said there’s a situation. It would cost $15,000,” Nelson said about deeper cleaning. “At this point, Marietta said ‘Stop, forget it. We’re going to turn this over to risk management.’ I knew if risk management was involved, it would be a battle.”
Nelson said he next spoke to Elizabeth Barbera at city insurer Trident Insurance.
“She called and said, ‘We’re not liable,’” he said.
Nelson then contacted attorney Jason Nohr of Cauthorn Nohr & O’Dell.
“I said, ‘They don’t want to pay.’ He said, ‘They’ll fight and we’ll fight back,’” Nelson said.
In an Oct. 3 letter, Nohr told Mayor Steve Tumlin that the mess appears to have been caused by the city’s use of high-velocity jets of water used to clean a nearby sewer line.
The City Council denied the claim in a 7-0 vote on Oct. 10, but city attorney Doug Haynie said that was standard operating procedure.
“Georgia law requires the city to respond within 30 days. The city normally responds to deny the claim to meet the 30-day requirement and then it gets further review by staff,” he said.
The city got the letter too soon before the meeting to give it a proper review, Haynie said.
The issue will likely appear on the City Council’s agenda for the Nov. 14 meeting, Haynie said.
Nelson said he’s already frustrated by the ordeal.
“When they walked away, that set it off,” he said. “I’m not asking for the world. All I’m asking is for them to clean it up.”
Nohr said the dollar amount of the claim has “not been quantified” yet, as numbers are still coming in from contractors for repairs including restoring the hardwood floors and removing mold in the $110,000 house.
“We’re gathering quotes on restoring it to its pre-raw sewage, pre-‘tsunami’ condition,” he said.
Meanwhile, Nelson said he has done all he can to salvage the property, which once brought in $700 a month in rental income.
“I go out there and mow the grass and try to air it out,” he said.