Aging Pipes Leading to Sewage Backups for Some Maryland Residents - NBC4 Washington

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Aging Pipes Leading to Sewage Backups for Some Maryland Residents

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    Several homeowners say for years now they've been forced to deal with cleaning up raw sewage in their homes after heavy rainstorms. News4's Susan Hogan reports what the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission is doing about it. (Published Thursday, March 10, 2016)

    Sewage is not meant to flood your basement. But that’s what happens -- over and over -- to some Maryland residents.

    A number of homeowners who live along Cipriano Road and Spring Avenue in Lanham, Maryland say raw sewage overflows out of their toilets, shower and sink drains.

    They’ve been forced to clean it up for years.

    Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission doesn't deny this happens and even pays for the costly cleanup. It blames miles and miles of aging sewer pipes.

    But customers don't want to live like this anymore. They want a permanent fix.

    “It's really gross, I mean it comes out of the toilet," said Christa Cooper, who lives in the affected part of Lanham.

    Residents say WSSC told them that when heavy rain hits, they should not run water or flush the toilet because it can make the backup worse.

    “Now every time we get the hard rain it ruins everything down there," said Connie Dibble, who lives in the area.

    Resident Christa Kopf said, “I had company from Germany and we had to take them to McDonalds to use the bathroom.”

    WSSC tells News 4 there's a history of problems in certain areas of Montgomery and Prince George's counties. About 5,500 miles of an aging sewer system is the main culprit.

    Old pipes may have cracks or holes that allow rain water to leak in, WSSC said, and the pipes can't handle the added flow, causing a disgusting backup.

    Although there's been extensive maintenance done to try to prevent sewage backups, it hasn't worked for everyone. According to WSSC, between fiscal years 2013 and 2015 it has had more than 2,300 sewage-related claims totaling nearly $6 million.

    “They said it’s cheaper to pay you your claims than it is to fix millions of dollars worth of damage," said resident Jean White.

    White says she's filed close to 20 claims with WSSC over the years. Dibble says she’s filed 10 claims and Kopf said she had lost count.

    “There’s a history of problems in that area and we’re aware of it," said WSSC spokesperson Lyn Riggins.

    WSSC says they have been working on replacing the aging sewer pipes -- including starting work on the neighborhood near Cipriano Road.

    “There's some new pipe in the ground now, the rest is going in as we speak and by the end of September all the customers should be on new pipes," Riggins said.

    So after decades of being on edge with every rain storm, keeping sandbags and fans nearby, the homeowners said they with are hopeful their years of living with raw sewage could be over.

    This fiscal year, WSSC has budgeted $234 million for sewer replacement and rehabilitation work, WSSC said.