When Denise Amann and her wife, Beth McKew, arrived at their house on Motter Avenue in Frederick, they immediately knew something was wrong.
They suspected that their home might have flood damage — after all, their basement had flooded twice before. When they left for their work in Washington, D.C., around 5 a.m., it was sprinkling.
Then their neighbor texted at 7:15 a.m. about flooding in the alley behind their house. They worried their car parked there might be damaged. At 8 a.m., they received a notification from the HVAC system. Something was wrong.
When they arrived home at 9:30 a.m. Monday, they could smell it right away.
Their home stunk of sewage.
“The car seemed to be OK, but then we went down into our basement, and our basement had about, I’m going to say, 3, 4 inches of what appeared to be raw sewage in it,” Amann said.
Heavy rain in the morning overwhelmed the city’s wastewater treatment center capacity, causing an overflow around 8 a.m., according to a press release from the city. The city’s drinking water was not affected.
The overflow led to the sewer system backing up, forcing sewage out of the toilet in Amann’s and McKew’s basement.
The water receded in her home, but Amann said that feces and toilet paper still litter the floors.
“It stinks,” she said. “It smells like pooh.”
City employees came out again Monday to Amann and McKew’s house, Amann said. She understands that a fix will be expensive, and it will take time. But this is now the third time that her basement has flooded.
“Every time it rains, we’re just, ‘What’s going to happen this time?’” she said.
They want the city to take the flooding seriously. They want them to be aware.
Whether the city is liable for damage to homes depends on the specifics of each case, city spokeswoman Patti Mullins said in an email.
The city is working to line older sewer lines with a PVC liner, which will seal the terra-cotta or concrete pipes, she said in the email.
“We are executing a manhole replacement program, replacing old manhole frame and covers with newer, water-tight lids, along the creeks, swales and the river throughout the City,” she said in the email.
Frederick city staff contacted the Frederick County Office of Emergency Management, which notified volunteer organizations, such as the Red Cross, to help with cleanup, risk safety manager Joe Lindstrom said in an email.
Amann and McKew’s home was flooded in the heavy rain in May 2018. This time, Amann predicts the damage will be slightly less because they got less water this time. Still, when she got to the basement and saw the damage, she thought, “Oh, no, not again.”
In 2018, the couple had 44 inches of water in their basement and it cost about $30,000 to mediate it. This time, the house got a couple of inches. The mediation will likely still cost around $15,000, Amann said.
They’ll lose some items, including electronics, but due to previous flooding, they’ve kept less and less in the basement. Amann and McKew already called flood mitigating crews to come clean up the damage. They bought tarp, gloves and Clorox to start cleaning what they can. They photographed the basement for insurance purposes.
They called their insurance company, which will take care of some of the cost. The insurance will cover sewage damage.
“We’ve been through this so many times,” she said. “It’s kind of sad, but we use the same people, and we called them. And our insurance agent said, ‘Oh, I was thinking about you this morning,’ as if she thought and knew we were going to call her. It’s kind of sad that we’re such regular clients. ”
Amann said she loves Frederick. It is their happy place. But after a third flood, she questions staying.
“Every time this happens we struggle with, OK, is this our forever home kind of thing,” she said. Plus, she wonders whether they could sell their home after three floods.
But for now, they will stay.