Flooded basements surround construction project in Armatage

Sewage backed up into basements near 61st & Thomas during a rainstorm last month.

The day of a rainstorm Sept. 20, sewer backups flooded basements in about 10-20 homes along Thomas Avenue South between 60th and 62nd streets, according to area residents.

Resident Scott Rademacher and his neighbor ran out to the street, which was under construction, to find blocked storm drains and a deep pool of water.

“After we cleared the storm drains, all of the water went into the storm drains where it belonged,” he said. “We came back into our houses and the sewage was exiting rapidly down the drains in the basement. It definitely was connected, beyond a shadow of a doubt.”

Rademacher said he was lucky, as his basement is unfinished. Other neighbors were not so lucky, including Steven Katkov, who purchased a newly constructed home 13 days earlier. His basement holds a furnished guest room and sitting area with a gas fireplace, bookcases and television sound system, and he’s estimating damages of at least $50,000.

The storm appears to have been unfortunate timing, according to Armatage neighbors. At the construction site, Rademacher said he saw a hole large enough to drive a truck into and four blocked storm drains, presumably to prevent silt from entering during construction. Service access to the sewer had been removed, ready for replacement, he said.

In a statement, the City of Minneapolis said staff “is still investigating what happened and is having conversations with affected neighbors. We’re aware that a number of claims were filed and the process of investigating those is ongoing.”

Katkov said city staff informed him that workers had been rehabilitating the sanitary sewer pipe the week prior to the storm. Street resurfacing work is underway in Armatage between Xerxes and Penn avenues and 58th and 62nd streets. Workers at the construction site told Katkov silt covers should have been removed before the storm.

The city provides information about sewer backups and a link to claim forms at minneapolismn.gov. City staff at 673-2406 can help determine if a home would benefit from a sewer backwater valve to reduce the likelihood of backups.

“We’re all just very distraught,” said Barb Verhage, who found an inch of contaminated black water in her basement. “…I’ve never had water in my basement, so I wasn’t expecting anything.”

She said she’s fortunate she happened to look in the basement before leaving town the next morning, and she’s grateful to her neighbors who cleared the drains.

“Had it not been for them, it would have been much worse,” she said.

Verhage recommends that residents buy sewer backup insurance. She didn’t have it.

According to the Minnesota Dept. of Commerce, neither flood insurance nor typical homeowner’s insurance policies cover damage caused by sewer backups or sump pump failures. Sewer backup coverage varies, and some companies exclude coverage for sewer backups during floods.