It’s the last thing they expected to come home to.
On the evening of Wednesday, Aug. 2, Danna and Geoff Messer went for a walk but when they returned home they quickly noticed a strong smell. The bathtub and toilet in their guest bathroom was full of raw sewage spilling onto the floor.
Before they knew it, there was one to two inches of sewage wall to wall in their residence.
“Our house became a biohazard,” Danna Messer said. “This has been devastating for us — absolutely devastating. It’s turned our lives upside down. We never expected to be on our hands and knees scraping raw sewage off our floors.”
The Sedona Police Department, Sedona Fire District and eventually a city crew responded to the scene and began pumping out the sewage. Messer said their insurance company denied the claim and said it was a matter between them and the city.
The sewage also impacted the home across the street from them, which is owned by Hildegard Szuklitsch. Both homes sit lower than any others on View Drive.
“It was just before 8 p.m. and I suddenly heard a whooshing sound,” Szuklitsch said. “I checked my water and then I saw the sewage coming up from the shower. It was coming up fast. In no time there was five to six inches of sewage throughout the house and was going out the front and back doors. The smell was so bad and anything that was on the floor was ruined.”
Szuklitsch moved into the house two years ago and spent $70,000 in upgrades. She said not only was her home ruined but so was her homebased business — Fibers Gone Wild. Bolts of fabric of all colors and patterns were destroyed by the raw sewage.
“I was so shocked I just couldn’t think straight,” she said. “It’s a mess. They had to rip everything out.” For several days Superior Restoration of Flagstaff was on hand to take away anything damaged from both homes.
“You have to have faith but it’s hard to come here and look at this,” Szuklitsch said. “This is all my life right here in this home.”
City Manager Justin Clifton said he gave the issue immediate attention after meeting with Geoff Messer the following day.
“I’ve seen sewer backups like this before and know how absolutely tragic they can be for the people involved,” he said the day after the incident. “What I communicated to Mr. Messer is that we needed to complete claims paperwork so we could get the ball rolling as soon as possible but that typically homeowners insurance is the first line of defense in a case like this.”
He said the backup originated from a blocked main sewer pipe. The cause of the backup was a pillow case that must have come from another residence.
“It is rare that homes have a floor drain elevation lower than the manholes in the street,” Clifton said. “In those cases, homes should be outfitted with a back-flow preventer that prevents sewage from entering the home. I can’t say where this will end up with any of the insurance companies involved but we obviously couldn’t wait to begin addressing this terrible situation. For that reason, the city authorized a restoration company to begin work at the impacted residences.”
On Monday, Clifton said it was his understanding the city’s insurance provider had made contact with both residents and was in the process of scheduling an adjuster to take a look at things.
“Justin has been great — the city has really stepped up,” Danna Messer said.
This is not the first time there has been an issue of raw sewage on View Drive. In February 2008, sewage spewed from a manhole, spilling into the yard of a vacant home that was for sale. At that time, a city employee told the Sedona Red Rock News that manhole overflows in the city are not common, and are usually caused by residents throwing out grease and other materials that plug the sewer lines.