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Tri-County Health: Sewage overflow at Pine Lakes Ranch could cause health problems

Ten homes affected
Posted at 2:12 AM, Nov 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-11-16 14:06:17-05

THORNTON, Colo. -- The company that owns Pine Lakes Ranch is reaching out to homeowners affected by a sewage backup last week, offering to help them remediate the damage.

Ten homes experienced some flooding in the manufactured home community, when tree roots were discovered growing into a line, causing it to collapse.

Two of the homes experienced severe flooding. 

Homeowner Tony Benigno told Denver7 that he and his wife came home on Wednesday and found raw sewage flowing out of their bathroom fixtures.

He said repair crews apparently used high pressure during their work process.

“There was so much pressure coming up from the toilet, it was flapping the lid up and down,” he said.

Benigno said the waste spread from the bathroom into a bedroom, soaking carpet and drywall.

He became emotional while talking about the frustration of trying to get the damage mitigated.

“Care Restoration came in and helped rip out the carpet and cleaned the floors,” he said. “They did a great job, and gave me an estimate on how much it will cost to repair drywall and replace other damaged items.”

He said his insurance policy will not cover damage from a flood or from a sewage backup. 

Benigno said he talked to management and was told they were responsible for fixing the damaged lines underground and he was responsible for cleaning up the sewage in his house.

That didn't sit well with Benigno, who decided to seek legal counsel.

Company reaction

In an emailed statement to Denver7, RHP Properties President Joel Brown said, "We worked expediently and diligently on the repairs to the sewer line to minimize personal home damage.  While our responsibilities lie with the common areas of the community and not individual home repairs, we regret the discomfort and inconvenience this has caused homeowners within our community and we are sending a remediation crew to provide cleanup for those affected."

Health Risk

Tri-County health officials say the raw sewage that backed up into some of the homes could pose a health risk.

“People who come into contact with raw sewage run the risk of contracting an illness related to bacteria, viruses or parasites,” said Monte Deatrich, Tri-County’s Environmental Health Manager.

He said it’s important that the homes be cleaned properly, to avoid illness.

“The most common mode of infection is through oral contact,” he said.  “Skin contact alone does not pose a health threat, unless you have an open wound.”

He gave an example of someone smoking a cigarette without washing their hands properly after coming into contact with waste.

Safety Precautions

  • Assume anything touched by sewage is contaminated.
  • Do not eat, drink or smoke in sewage handling areas.
  • Wash hands well with soap and clean water before eating or touching mouth or face.
  • Wash hands well with soap and clean water after touching any surfaces or objects that may have been contaminated.
  • Do not touch your nose, mouth, eyes or ears with your hands, unless you have just washed.
  • Immediately wash and disinfect any wound that comes into contact with sewage.
  • Shower and change out of your clothes before leaving.  Launder clothes separately or discard.
  • Vaccinations: If you’ve been exposed to sewage, you need to be up to date on your shots for tetanus and diphtheria.
  • Contact a doctor immediately if illness occurs.

Deatrich also recommended cutting out part of the drywall an inch or two above the water line.

“If you don’t cut that out, you’ll probably have some mold growth and that could cause some other problems,” he said.

He said unlike hard surfaces, contaminated items like carpeting, couches and children’s toys can’t be cleaned and should be discarded.

“So should the carpet padding,” he added.

Private property

The City of Thornton told Denver7, on Tuesday, that the sewer line was on private property and not a city responsibility.

Deatrich said the Health Department learned about the sewage backup and leak on Saturday.

“It took 3 or 4 hours for work crews (hired by Pine Lakes management) to make repairs,” he said.

“On Monday, we received a call that a small amount of sewage was seeping out of the ground,” he said.

“We had a trench dug to contain the waste,” he said, and fenced off the area to keep kids and pets out of the area.”

Deatrich said on Tuesday, the sewage was still not being contained, so they made the trench larger and re-fenced the area.

He said as of 1:16 p.m. Wednesday, Nov.15, there was no active leak and the contaminated soil remains fenced off.