Venice homeowner fights utility after sewage, mold fill home

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A part-time resident and homeowner in South Venice is trying to figure out what to do after street plumbing failed and caused sewage to back up into her home, which sat for months, growing black mold while she was away.

Lisa Brown said the Englewood Water District has since repaired the sewage problem, but not the damage to her house, and she said that’s not good enough.

"They have said the entire house has to be gutted to the studs. So all my furniture, thrown out, all my personal possessions, thrown out," said Brown about the state of her house when a professional examined it.

Brown was away from her house for a few months but had a friend check in on the property in November. That's when the hazardous situation was discovered and reported to the Englewood Water District.

Today, the house is not even safe for entry, but Brown showed FOX 13 News pictures of what she says is black mold on most surfaces and sewage on the floor.

"It’s been weeks of extreme, extreme anxiety," said Brown. "[My friend] saw black flies on the ceiling and mold in the house and then exited and called me right away."

Water workers said a sewer valve at the street failed, and sewage from another house backed up into Brown’s home. Englewood Water District Administrator Ray Burroughs sent FOX 13 a statement about the failure, saying in part “Englewood Water District was found not negligent and according to our insurance policy we are only responsible up to $10,000 for damages.”

In a written response, Burroughs went on to say, "Ms. Brown stated that the house had been vacant since July, however, meter reads indicate water usage consistent with 1 – 2 people using water at the residence all the way through October. The valve failed at some unknown point (we have no way of knowing unless a problem is reported). The neighbor next door shares the same pit with Ms. Brown, and the property is slightly elevated. So any backup that occurred would have just been gravity fed from the neighbor."

Brown said she is not sure how there was water usage because she said no one was living inside the house at the time. She said she feels the water use is a separate issue from the sewage backup and the problems it caused inside her house. She said the water district offered her $10,000, but she said that's not nearly enough to cover the cost of construction and repairs.

"What they are saying is that a pipe failed, they did not manufacture the part, so therefore they are not liable because they didn’t manufacture the part that failed," said Brown. "Yes, we ruined your house with sewage. You can’t live in it, but we’re not going to fix it."

Brown said she spent thousands to fix the roof and siding three years ago, and now she feels homeless and helpless because of something out of her control.

"I want them to put it back the way it was. Get it cleaned up. Get it livable, back the way it was," said Brown.

She said she may hire an attorney to represent her to fight the water district.