Prior to the 2004 federal consent decree, the Metropolitan Sewer District of Greater Cincinnati often considered backups of sewage into basements and onto property to be “acts of God” and usually did not pay claims, help with cleanups or prevent future backups.
As part of filing its own suit and intervening in the federal lawsuit filed by the DOJ, Sierra Club made the judge aware that sewage had backed up into thousands of homes and businesses. People were suffering repeated backups and damage to their property due to the inadequacies of the sewer system. MSD is now under court orders to fix these problems. The judge required MSD to
- clean up basements,
- pay damages claims, (including loss of property value) and
- prevent future backups.
MSD is required to pay for these sewage back-ups from system inadequacies, not the property owner or renter.
The Court also established an appeals process that those with backups can use if their claims are denied. Here are the steps to use:
Backups should be reported to MSD, 513-352-4900 and can also be reported online at msdgc.org/sbu.
(Note: MSD’s program used to be called Water in Basement. The SBU, Sewer Backup Program, is the same program. )
The federal court also appointed Legal Aid to be the “Ombudsman” for the program – to look out for the rights of those damaged, if they do not want to hire their own lawyer. Legal Aid can be reached at 362-2801. The Ombudsman can help you with questions about the program and the appeals process, if your claim is denied by MSD. The Ombudsman’s assistance is free of charge.
It is very important to understand the procedures MSD has established for making claims and making sure your basement is properly cleaned up. Sewage carries disease-causing pathogens and other threats to human and animal health.
ECO and the Sierra Club have an ongoing interest in the effectiveness of this program.
If you are having trouble getting help from MSD, you can also call Sierra Club at 513-861-4001. You may have to leave a message, so please leave an address and phone number where you can be reached.
Sierra Club 513-861-4001 www.miamigroup.org