Sewage backup floods homes in Northeast Side subdivision; SAWS says it's not liable

Homeowners shelled out thousands and want reimbursement

By Deven Clarke - Crime and Justice Reporter, Bill Caldera - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - Several homeowners in the Feather Ridge subdivision on the city's Northeast Side say their hard earned money has gone to waste -- literally.

A main sewer line that the San Antonio Water System said was backed up with grease and cleaning wipes led to sewage flooding several homes, and the utility company said it may not pay for the damages.

Much of the mess ended up in the house Michael and June Painter have lived in for nearly 30 years.

“The smell was so bad, we had to put a piece of plastic up in the hallway to keep this area isolated from the living room and dining room,” Michael Painter said.

The problem was especially difficult for his wife, who uses a wheelchair to get around.

“It forced us to go and stay with our children and in a hotel,” June Painter said.

The backup happened Aug. 1, and now some 20 days later — and after the Painters have paid more than $8,000 — much of the damage to their home has been repaired.

The Painters fear they'll have to shell out thousands more, however, as their home's flooring still needs to be replaced.

A few houses down from the Painters, Orlando and Rachel Benavides found themselves clogged with the same issue and a plumbing bill of more than $400.

“Our toilet started backing up ... It was sickening. You could smell it,” Orlando Benavides said. 

“You could smell it … We just started putting towels down,” Rachel Benavides said.

The Painters and Benavideses filed claims with SAWS and received similar letters saying their claims may be rejected due to a Texas law that allows the entity to avoid financial responsibility because it wasn't negligent.

“We're still looking at this. We haven't closed it out completely. Generally, there is a rule of law that says we can’t be responsible for every spill that happens,” said Anne Hayden, communications manager for SAWS.

SAWS reminds residents not to flush grease and/or wipes down the drain. It said anyone experiencing issues such as the families living in Feather Ridge should call 210-704-7297 before contacting private plumbing and cleanup companies. The utility company said it's likely it can get the work done at a lower cost to homeowners.

SAWS Letter

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