Dispute over sewer repairs could be costly for homeowner

OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A broken sewer line has a homeowner and sanitary improvement district at odds over who should pay how much for repairs.

The circumstances are unusual, but it's a dispute that any neighborhood could face.

The home involved in the dispute was built six years ago and has had five sewer backups since Sue Jonsson moved in.

"The water was pouring through the wall from the sewer," she explained.

A plumber's camera found the line to the house broken about five feet from the sewer main.

"When it's 25 feet below ground, how does a pipe get crushed?" Jonsson questioned.

The cause is a mystery, but the SID said the law makes homeowners responsible for a sewer line up to the main.

"Paying the whole bill and making 600 residents or 600 homes within the SID pay for a private problem, we just couldn't cross that line for legal reasons," SID attorney Brent Beller said.

Because the break is so close to the main, the SID agreed to pay $5,000 of the $20,000 cost.

"I run a daycare," Jonsson said.

She and her daughter have to pay for the repairs on top of their other bills.

After the latest sewer backup, Jonsson was able to salvage and sanitize equipment for her in-home daycare, but nits cost her about $3,00 in out-of-pocket costs. With all of that, she said she can scrape together $5,000 for the sewer line repair.

"A person shouldn't have to pay for something like this. You know I had nothing to do with this. This was something that was done under construction," Jonsson said.

The SID needs about $15,000 from her to fix the sewer line, and offered her a 10-year, no interest loan.

"We take it very, very serious when issues like this come up, and being sensitive to a homeowner in our district," Beller said.

A deadline has passed with no decision.

The SID board meets on Tuesday to decide whether to go ahead with the estimated $20,000 sewer repair. If Jonsson doesn't agree to pay the bulk of the cost, a lien could be placed on her property.