Motter Ave Basement Flood

Water backing up through a basement toilet flooded this home on the 900 block of Motter Avenue.

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.

The damage

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.

Follow Heather Mongilio on Twitter: @HMongilio.

Heather Mongilio is the health and Fort Detrick reporter for the Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at

(10) comments


the line does not need to be capped. there is something called a backflow presenter that can be installed inside the house so that if there is a backflow the valve automatically closes and shuts down the sewage line..when the backflow stops the vale automatically releases and the sewage from the house runs out just fine. It is something installed by the homeowner and doing so would save them on homeowners since the chances of a backflow are now substantially reduced.


If the explanation of the cause is correct, then this shouldn't be the only affected basement by a long shot. Why are no others mentioned?


How about they cut the school budget to fix the problem? How many would complain about that? How many are willing to give up their income tax deductions and credits for the children they have to pay for the extra services they use over those of us who have no children? I hear people complain when water and sewer rates go up. This is why they have to go up, because infrastructure maintenance has not been fully funded even without the added strain that growth has placed on the infrastructure. It's time to pay the piper.


The city is setting itself up for a class action lawsuit. Between backed up sewer lines to the general overall flooding with old antiquated SWM systems. Downtown residents are at their wits end. We in the city pay a lot of taxes and are not getting the services we deserve.


How did this happen three times? This is the owners fault. Cap the toilet or put a one-way-valve in.


If the problems for these people are just from their basement toilet backing up, I believe I’d have it removed and the pipe capped. Better to sacrifice one toilet then to continue going through this mess every time rains like this occur.


I hope they read this suggestion and look into it. It is terrible to think of living in fear of rain! These are very patient people - how many might have sued the city by now?


And if a fix to the flooding is ever devised, the pipe could be uncapped and a new toilet installed.


I was thinking the same thing KR, unless it is a basement apartment, then they would definitely have to move after the line is capped.



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