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21 DC Homeowners Go to Court Over Sewage Flooding and Discrimination

By George Khoury, Esq. on May 12, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A lawsuit filed over the weekend against the Washington D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) alleges that the agency violated the civil rights of over 20 DC homeowners and residents as a result of a sewage eruption. The residents were all forced to evacuate their homes when, in November of last year, sewage rising from the public system caused each home to be filled with two to three feet of standing raw sewage.

Although authorities made some effort to clean up the sewage eruption and remedy claims for damages, nearly all of the residents have found those efforts to be failing. Those affected by the sewage eruption returned to find destroyed and missing belongings, heaps of sewage damaged items and home fixtures strewn about on their lawns, and homes filled with the aftermath and stench of being covered in raw sewage.

Details of the Case

The sewage eruption happened due to WASA's efforts to repair a main water line that ran beneath several homes on the 1200 block of Delafield Place. When the repair failed, within half an hour, residents' homes were flooded with raw sewage. Despite acknowledging responsibility for causing the sewage deluge, WASA's handling of the situation is what prompted the lawsuit.

Residents are alleging that the manner in which the clean-up was conducted is evidence of race discrimination, particularly as all of the residents are non-white. Allegations assert that WASA made little to no abatement efforts other than a haphazard cleaning which caused other parts of many homes to be further contaminated. Additionally, efforts to compensate owners to repair or replace damaged property have been consistently well below market value, and required full legal releases for all damages and injuries.

Government Responsibility for Damage to Home

When damage to a home, or private property, occurs due to a government employee's, or entity's, negligence in performing governmental duties, usually the entity involved, or the city, county, municipality, state, or, as in this case, district, can be held liable for the damages.

However, like injury claims against a public entity, generally, victims, or property owners, will be required to file claims regarding the damages directly with the entity within a rather short time period before they can file a lawsuit.

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