NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Dozens of victims of a massive sewage spill spent Sunday afternoon demanding answers at a community town hall in Queens.
Last weekend, their basements flooded with wastewater.
City and state representatives were at the the Lyndon B. Johnson School with advice and some answers for the residents, but not enough to satisfy some in the crowd, CBS2’s Dave Carlin reported.
“It’s not completely gone. We have a humidifier and we have a lot of air fresheners and stuff,” South Ozone Park resident Bena Balgobin said.
Balgobin said she feels like a prisoner in a home left sickeningly filthy.
She said more than a week after sewage backed up for her and dozens of her southeast Queens neighbors, she’s required to be home to let in contractors who rip out the soggy basement walls and remove bag after bag of belongings ruined by sewer water.
“We have things to do. We have to get out of the house, but I don’t know how that’s going to work,” Balgobin said.
What is not working, she said, is the online application process for filing a claim with the city to get someone to pay for the mess.
The deadline is within 90 days of the flood.
Balgobin attended the community town hall on the sewage spill.
“I tried several times. It is not accepting,” she said.
City leaders said community liaisons are being assigned to make sure the applications get done on time.
Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Vincent Sapienza gave the crowd an update, saying at least 74 homes were flooded, and pumps must continue to operate around the clock to keep it from happening again.
The good news is the city found the source of the problem. But it is deeper than expected, and the fix is more challenging.
“[The blockage] is near the airport. It’s deep. That pipe is under water actually from ground water,” Sapienza said.
Exactly what caused the problem is unknown. Also a mystery was the city’s slow response to the many 311 calls.
State Sen. James Sanders Jr. promised there will be a series of investigations at the state and city levels.
“The late response cannot be tolerated,” Sanders said.
City council hearings on the issue begin Wednesday at 10 a.m., Carlin reported.
About the big back-up, slow response and the strangling red tape, residents have been telling politicians they never want to be put through this again and that something needs to be done now.
Investigators with the DEP initially floated the theory that the spill was caused by residents pouring grease from Thanksgiving feasts down the drain, but they have since backed off that idea.
Mayor Bill de Blasio visited the scene of the flooding on Monday, but some at the town hall criticized him for not coming to see them sooner.