When a basement floods, who’s at fault? According to one man in Omaha, Nebraska, it’s the city’s responsibility in his case.
Charles (whose last name has not been reported for confidentiality reasons), says that, in the 60 years he had lived in the area of 24th and Maple, he had never experienced flooding. “There’s never been a flood in this area since I’ve been living,” he said in an interview with KETV.
Earlier this year, Omaha started water main work and sewer separation in the neighborhood. The Environmental Protection Agency’s federal guidelines required that the crews working on the pipes have a stormwater pollution prevention plan in place. Why does the EPA regulate stormwater in the first place? Throughout the nation, stormwater is actually one of the main sources of water pollution — 18% of lakes are classified as “impaired by stormwater.”
While working, the crews used “gutter buddies,” long red bags that prevent detritus from entering storm drains. While they do prevent unwanted debris from entering the storm drains, in this case, heavy precipitation meant that they also prevented normal rainwater from flowing into the drain, as well. The gutter buddies were left in place overnight, during heavy rain.
“When you get a huge deluge like that, it’s really more than they are designed to be able to hold, and they can end up exacerbating drainage problems,” explained Omaha Environmental Services manager, Marty Grate, who added that the gutter buddies were designed to work well through a moderate storm at most.
The clogged storm drains caused Charles’ basement to flood, which he says is a claim his insurance is denying — so he’s going to the city. “This wasn’t caused by flood. There are no rivers or lakes around here. It was caused by negligence,” said Charles. He is hoping that the city will acknowledge their role in the flooding, though so far, they have yet to claim responsibility for the flooding, or the bill.
His insurance company, American Family Insurance, isn’t backing down in the meantime. “Unless you have the endorsement, the backup of sewer and drains, as well as the failure of a sump pump, (coverage) is excluded,” they said in a released statement.
“This type of flooding is definitely the responsibility of the city, only because it is due to the negligence of the city workers who left the ‘gutter buddies’ in place,” says Andrew, Owner of Aqua Tech Waterproofing in Toronto, ON. “That being said, had the home that flooded had proper waterproofing and a good sump pump in place, the damage to the home would not be that extensive.”