Homeowner blames city for sewage backup

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WICHITA, Kan. — Bennie and Mary Calip were called home from a Florida vacation to find their basement full of raw sewage.

The Calip's daughter, Schronda Williams, found the sewage bubbling up in several places. "The toilet, the shower, the drain by the front of the furnace and the sump pump," said Williams. "I couldn't breathe, we had to run outside to catch air, fresh air."

The cost to clean up the mess and tear out drywall was over $4,600. That plus rebuilding the basement would top $20,000.

The Calips, who said they never had sewage backup before, said this happened March 9th when city crews were clearing a partial blockage in one of the main lines up the street. The Calips said another house on their block also had a backup.

The city's strategic services manager says as long as the city checks sewer lines on a scheduled basis, it's not liable for home sewage backups. "So long as we do that, then that really minimizes the chances of sewer back ups" said Ben Nelson. "Cleaning the lines doesn't result in a back up."

But Calip, a retired minister, is not convinced. To make matters worse, his home owner's insurance won't cover the damage.

"I look at the room in there and out here and it just terrifies me", said Calip. "All the money we spent trying to get this place fixed up and redecorated."

Right now the Calips don't know what they will do. They are both 73 years old and live on a fixed income. They don't have the funds to fix the basement the way it was before.

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