Raw sewage floods basements, but who’s responsible for the damages?

Mar 14, 2024, 10:28 PM | Updated: Mar 15, 2024, 7:30 am

FARMINGTON — Tyler and Jen Erickson’s basement takes up about a third of their home with family rooms and their kids’ rooms. But these days, no one lives or even uses the space. It was destroyed last November when raw sewage began flowing from a floor drain and into their home.

“Our entire basement was covered in 5 to 6 inches of sewer water,” Tyler Erickson said.

When the flood happened, the Ericksons called their sewer district which sent a crew to look over the damages.

basement sewer water damage

The Erickson’s said the sewage began flowing from this floor drain, filling the basement with 5 to 6 inches of sewer water. (KSL TV)

“Right away, they told us they’d cover $4,000 and we were like, ‘Thanks but it’s going to be way more than that,’” Tyler Erickson said.

Estimates to get their home back to normal are running higher than $100,000. And that’s just for their home; Others got hit, too.

“Eight houses in our neighborhood, three in another,” Jen Erickson said. “And our basements were completely lost.”

the sewer water will cost more than $100,000

The Ericksons say estimates on repair costs to bring their home back to normal run past $100,000. (KSL TV)

So, what happened?

After some initial back and forth, the sewer district pointed the finger down the street.

“The next day is when they came and said, ‘We think it was Cherry Hill,’ ” Tyler Erickson said.

The Ericksons said the sewer district told them the Cherry Hill Water Park in Kaysville drained their lazy river into the sewer which in turn, overwhelmed the sewer lines. In community meetings to discuss the issue, Cherry Hill admitted they drained their pool but insist it has never been an issue before.

The Central Davis Sewer District says the flooding was caused by Cherry Hill Water Park’s draining a pool into the sewer system. The Ericksons say the water park told them it’s something they’ve done for 20 years without a problem. (KSL TV)

“They say we’ve been doing this the same way since it was built 20 years ago,” Jen Erickson said.

Jen and Tyler Erickson said the water park, the sewer district and both of their insurance companies are all passing the blame.

“Everybody is pointing us in a different direction,” Tyler Erickson said. “Go talk to this other person, not me. It’s not my fault.”

“We’re just kind of stuck in the middle,” Jen Erickson said.

Frustrated, the Ericksons contacted the KSL Investigators.

The KSL Investigators reached out to both the Central Davis Sewer District and Cherry Hill. Neither was willing to talk with us on camera. In fact, Cherry Hill refused outright, writing, “We do not comment on pending matters.”

By email, the sewer district told us the same thing it told the Ericksons: “Cherry Hill caused the incident.”

The sewer district also wrote that it expects the water park to pay, and tells us it is “engaged with Cherry Hill’s management and insurance carrier to demand a resolution that makes the homeowners whole.”

I took it all to Stewart Harman, an attorney who does a lot of work on claims where a government entity is involved. He said because the sewer district is government, that immediately makes holding the district liable difficult.

“You always start with the premise that governmental immunity applies,” he said.

As for who is at fault, that answer could get wonky.

“The biggest thing that you have to do is to kind of follow the path,” Harman said. “Where did the water come from to begin with? Then look at why. Here … a sewer system failed. So, now the question is, ‘Why did the sewer system fail?’”

The path in this case goes from the neighborhood and then up the line to Cherry Hill. But from there, it gets more colorful as you begin to dig.

For example, the sewer district wrote that Cherry Hill is guilty of an “illegal discharge.” Meanwhile, public records obtained by the Ericksons indicate Cherry Hill got permits to connect their pool to the sewer.

The ericksons have bedrooms for their kids in the basement that was flooded with serewage.

Tyler and Jen Erickson and Jen Erickson said they are talking to a lawyer for a possible lawsuit. (Tyler and Jen Erickson)

So, the sewer district could have some responsibility. Cherry Hill could have some responsibility. Both could have some responsibility. Harman’s advice to the homeowners is to not hold off on suing a government entity in Utah.

“The statute of limitation against the public sector or the sewer district is going to be two years with a notice of claim,” he said.

Tyler and Jen Erickson said they are talking to a lawyer, so it seems their messy nightmare may still be in its infancy.

“I feel like we are being held hostage,” Tyler Erickson said.

As for their homeowners’ insurance, the Ericksons said it would have covered the damage had the flooding originated on their property. But because it started outside their property, they are on their own. 

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Raw sewage floods basements, but who’s responsible for the damages?