Backed up: Nymore residents still dealing with sewer backup after road construction accident in mid-May

BEMIDJI-More than two weeks after a road construction accident caused sewer water to back up and flood her Nymore neighborhood basement, Janet C. Dreyer is still working with hired crews to clean up and dry everything out.

Dreyer was one of more than a dozen residents who found some level of flooding in their basements as a result of a broken waterline. And, just like the cleanup from the accident itself, residents and city officials are still determining who will clean up the logistical mess from it all.

"Right now, the cleanup is the responsibility of the homeowners," City Engineer Craig Gray said. "The city is kind of limited on what it can do until it goes through insurance companies."

The ongoing construction is part of the 2019 Street Renewal Project at the corner of Second Street and Pershing Avenue. The project includes replacing old sanitary sewer and watermain infrastructure underneath the road. The existing piping was anywhere from 65 to 75 years old, Gray said.

There was a water main and a sewer main that were near one another. In the process of excavating the area around the two lines, the water main broke, casing the dug-out hole in the road to fill up rapidly. The water then reached street level, and went into the sanitary sewer line, causing it to flood area basements.


"They have a big hole dug there in the road, and when the water main broke, that hole filled up-like, in a matter of seconds," Gray said.

Backed up: Nymore residents still dealing with sewer backup after road construction accident in mid-May

Gray said the city has received a number of claims related to the incident and that the city's insurance company is reviewing them. Although it's hard to estimate, he said they hope to have some preliminary information from the company within the next week or two.

Until then, it's up to the residents to pick up the pieces.

On Tuesday, a couple of cleanup workers were trudging up and down Dreyer's basement stairs. One brought up a container of Christmas ornaments that was still full of brown water. Her garage had a number of items they'd already brought up from the basement. She said she'd try to clean and save what she could. Although they'd already begun working to clean out her basement, it still had traces from the day the water backed up, such as the dark sludge in her basement bathtub.

"They had to gut my whole basement, " Dreyer said. "I don't look (at it) because it's too depressing."

Dreyer isn't the only one who had a large garbage bin outside her home as a result of the water backup, although not all of them received the same amount of damage.

Aaron Trebelhorn is a college student who just recently moved into his house on Second Street when the water main broke. There were just a couple dressers in the basement with some boxes on top, so he didn't lose much. However, his landlord had to tear out the carpeting in the basement just like some of the other residents.

Barbara Benkert said she could see the water bubbling up from where she was standing at the top of the stairs. She said she was lucky that she didn't have carpeting in the basement of her home. Like the other residents affected, though, she has yet to hear how the final logistics will pan out.


"I don't think we homeowners should have to (pay for the damage)," Benkert said. "I don't think my insurance company should have to pay for anything either because it wasn't my fault. It was the city who was doing the maintenance on the road."