Sweetwater grandmother homeless after raw sewage leaks into house

A judge has denied woman's claim against Sweetwater Utilities Board.

SWEETWATER (WATE) – A grandmother in Sweetwater who sued the city’s utilities board after her home was flooded with sewage is disappointed with a court verdict.

A judge has ruled against Pat Lenoir, who has never moved back into her home. The 82-year-old widow lives on a fixed income, doesn’t have the money to clean up the mess left behind and says she doesn’t know what to do next.

Sometime between June 28, 2013 to July 11, 2013, according to court records, the sewer backed up into Lenoir’s home. At the time, she was visiting her daughter in Georgia. It wasn’t until she came back to Sweetwater that she discovered raw sewage everywhere.

When WATE 6 On Your Side first visited Lenoir’s home raw sewage had spewed from the toilet, shower drain and even the washing machine. Her entire house was flooded.

“It came up so high in my kitchen. It was like a Katrina in my house,” said Lenoir sobbing.

A sewer main operated by the Sweetwater Utilities Board is across the street from Lenoir’s house house. In July 2013, Ruby Moore, Lenoir’s neighbor, said she watched a utility worker clearing the sewer main. She said there was a bunch of water with a slight smell coming from the man hole in front of Lenoir’s house.

However, in a letter sent in August 2013, the Sweetwater Utilities Board told Lenoir they could not help her. The board’s insurance company concluded it is not responsible for the unfortunate incident.

Sweetwater Utilities Board told Lenoir the sewage problem was the city of Sweetwater’s problem, however the city said it was not responsible. Her home insurance also did not cover the damages.

The estimate to clean up the sewage was estimated to be $39,000. At 82, living on a fixed income, Lenoir didn’t have the money from her won pocket to make her house livable again, so Lenoir sued the Sweetwater Utilities Board in 2014.

In Monroe County Circuit Court, Lenoir’s case took two years to reach a conclusion. In an 18 page report of facts and conclusions, filed February 11, 2016, the court ruled against Lenoir and in favor of the utilities board, finding the utility board had no prior notice of a defect in the sewer line.

Two and a half years after the incident, Lenoir said she dreads have to go inside her home. “The first whiff of air takes your breath away because the odor from nasty raw sewage that flooded her home in July 2013, lingers,” said WATE 6 On  Your Side Consumer Investigator Don Dare.

“I am out of a home. I’m homeless,” said Lenoir. She moved into the house with her late husband in 1994, but now, unable to live there, she rents an apartment. However, she says it is too small for her grandchildren to stay overnight.

The grandmother says what really bother her is that besides a single workman, no one from the Sweetwater Utilities Board ever set foot into her home to see for themselves the damage that was caused when the sewer backed up. WATE 6 On Your Side reached out to the utility board for comment, but have not received a reply.

“I just need somebody to come and help me. Please, help me. I can’t take it,” said Lenoir. She said she needs help cleaning her home to “get the stench out.”

Lenoir set up a GoFundMe page for anyone who would like to help her. Lenoir also says she is in discussions with her attorney about filing an appeal.

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