Residents of four Melrose properties were forced to relocate Friday after an attempt to fix a sewer blockage caused sewage to flow back into the homes, officials said.
City workers responded to a report of blocked sewer line on Brazil Street around 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Melrose Mayor Gail Infurna said in a statement.
After locating the source of the blockage, Department of Public Works crews “proceeded to jet the block in the line in order to restore flow,” Infurna said.
During this process, sewage flowed back into four homes along the street, she said.
Silvana Ortiz of 12 Brazil St. was one of about a dozen people affected by the surge of sewage, which has seeped into the cement structure of her house, she said. She said she was forced to move into a hotel, board her three dogs, and move everything out of her house after the incident.
“Everything is pretty much destroyed,” she said.
Ortiz said she was the one who called city’s Department of Public Works on Thursday morning around 9 because she noticed bubbles coming from a drain on her driveway. She was at home when the flood rushed out of her toilet.
“It was like molten lava coming out at me,” she said.
City officials said the cause of the blockage and surge of sewage is under investigation, and the city is conducting an independent review of the incident through an outside engineering firm.
On Friday, health officials and the city’s building inspector deemed the four houses uninhabitable after assessing the damage. They will stay in contact with residents to help them through the process of repairing the damage, Infurna said.
“Unfortunately, the damage to the homes involved is extensive and could take days or weeks to repair,” Infurna said.
Ortiz said she was upset that it took the city a full day to respond to her when she called them for help — by which time she had spoken to local media outlets.
“I pretty much told [the city], ‘I don’t know what’s more disgusting: the feces in my living room or the way the city is responding to it,’ ” she said.
Since Friday, the city has been more responsive, she said. She hopes that the city will reimburse her for some of the $8,000 needed just to rid her house of the contamination. In the meantime, however, she has been saddled with the upfront costs necessary to clear out her belongings and find a place to stay.
Ortiz, who got married just a couple of weeks ago, had family staying with her until Tuesday.
“I’m just glad they weren’t here,” she said.
Abigail Feldman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org