Springfield homeowner furious over sewage blockage incident
Allegedly originating at Springfield Health and Rehabilitation Center
By JEFF EPSTEIN
SPRINGFIELD, Vt. — The resident whose Chester Road home suffered an incursion of sewage last week is accusing the town of not taking sufficient action against a nearby health center he believes is the ultimate cause of the blockage.
The incident, discussed at the select board meeting here Wednesday, allegedly originated at Springfield Health and Rehabilitation Center at 105 Chester Rd., owned by Genesis HealthCare. The blockage there, that town officials said may involve flushing of prohibited material such as adult diapers or other large objects, apparently led to a chain of events that resulted in sewage flowing into the home of Russell Grochowik, 59, at 102 Chester Road, across the road.
The incident did not happen last Sunday and Monday as the Eagle Times initially reported, but the previous week, Dec. 16 and 17, said Grochowik. On Sunday, Dec. 16 he noticed a truck from Beard’s Sewer and Drain of Newport at the center across the street. But it was not there at his request.
The company’s customer was the health center, which the Beard company confirmed. The company has been to the center a few times this year to clear stopped-up drains, said owner Tim Beard.
The following day, Grochowik said, he noticed sewage backing up into a toilet and into the basement. It continued to come into the house and “it ripped the heating ducts right out.”
The house quickly became unlivable, and he fled to a hotel, where he has been living ever since, he said. The town has offered to pay the $130 a night cost, he said, but only for one week as a holiday courtesy. He has since incurred expenses for the cleanup of his house, he said.
“The town says they are not liable,” said Grochowik, who strongly disagrees. “They are 100 percent liable.”
The health center “doesn’t do anything” and “the town does nothing,” he said. The state, however, “comes down every six months to blow the lines out,” Grochowik said.
Grochowik accuses Town Manager Tom Yennerell of lying to him and refusing to discuss the issue with him. “I’m in the process of getting an attorney,” Grochowik added.
Yennerell did not return multiple calls from the Eagle Times Thursday.
About the one thing everybody seems to agree on is that the issue is an old one. Grochowik cites a similar sewage incident that he says occurred around 1995, and the sewer line dates back to the 1970s. “This has been going on for years,” Grochowik said.
A spokesperson for the Springfield Health and Rehabilitation Center, Lori Mayer, provided this statement: “Springfield Health and Rehabilitation Center is a proud member of the Springfield community. After being made aware that a sewer line backed up into the house of one of our neighbors, we commenced investigation, which is currently still ongoing, to determine the cause of the back-up. We are working cooperatively with both the town and the homeowner.”
The town water and sewer department went to the scene on Monday and the crew was able to clear a blockage in the town sewer line in about 45 minutes, superintendent Jeff Strong told the select board during their Wednesday meeting. This was apparently a different location than the site the Beard company worked.
As far as the Beard company was concerned, it simply clears the local problem and has nothing to do with any further impact, said Beard. However, he added that he thought the health facility’s pipe may be very close to the town sewer line, and it was possible that the blockage moved from the facility’s pipe to the town pipe.
The town has been monitoring a manhole near the location of the blockage for some time. Select board chair Kristi Morris mentioned during the meeting that he had a personal calendar reminder every six months to check on the manhole situation.
It is not obvious where the manhole or sewer line is, however. A visual inspection by the Eagle Times did not find any manhole on the stretch of Chester Road between the two properties, which nearly face each other on opposite sides of the road. Other than a couple of drainage pipes, the only related object appears to be a storm drain that exists on the roadway on the Grochowik side.
In any case, the manhole apparently has some kind of device on it related to this, according to both town officials and Grochowik, but details about this object and its purpose are still not clear. Strong did not return calls from the Eagle Times Thursday.
Update 12/28: Grochowik states that the party paying for his hotel room is the Springfield Health and Rehabilitation Center, not the Town of Springfield, and the offer has been extended.