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Sunday, October 26, 2014
Sewage secret seeps out
Lawrence homeowners spend thousands for pumps and repair
Ann E. Friedman/Herald
Having gone through four boilers in five years due to flooding caused by sewage backup, Gloria Katz suspended her new boiler from the ceiling to avoid having to replace it yet again.

Sewage issues on Harborview North in Lawrence are a badly kept secret, according to five-year resident Mendel Warshawsky, as he and many of his neighbors have sump pumps, operating 24 hours a day, draining water out into the street to prevent sewage backup and flooding toilets and drains.

According to Warshawsky, stagnating water on the street, which freezes in the winter and gives off a malevolent odor during the summer, is typical in the area. “It’s unhygienic and unhealthy to live this way,” he said. “It’s disgusting, but it’s normal for us. We do this so our basement doesn’t back up, and we’ve been given no alternative.”

Warshawsky’s basement has flooded twice, and he has poured at least $50,000 into repairing and replacing appliances. “We end up paying for everything ourselves,” he said. “But it’s our fault because we don’t put our foot down, since it’s just easier to call the plumber. I’d rather do that than call the village, but I can’t deal with another flooded basement.”

Lawrence Village Administrator Dave Smollett said the village does not have jurisdiction over the sewage system. Nassau County assumed responsibility on Jan. 1, 2012, through the Sewage Treatment Master Plan, which consolidated wastewater facilities, including those in Lawrence and Cedarhurst, with the Bay Park Sewage Treatment Plant. “We have no control over the sewer,” Smollett said. “The county owns that.”

According to Mike Martino, spokesman for the Nassau County Department of Public Works, there is no problem with the county’s sewage system that would cause drainage or flooding issues in Lawrence. “The county always responds to odor or backup complaints,” Martino said. “Since taking over the [wastewater facilities], county workers have visited [Harborview North] several times and informed residents that the blockages are not in the county system, but the homeowners’ systems. Residents should have a licensed plumber inspect their systems for blockages.”

When Harborview North resident Gloria Katz moved to the area 23 years ago, she called a plumber whenever her home had drainage or flooding issues. “For the first few years, I called the Roto-Rooter guy,” she said. “But I had no idea I was in for this.”

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