Thirty-six hours after the problem first started, you could still smell the sewage.
Lola Thomas had raw sewage in her back alley that she couldn’t get rid of.
“This is raw sewage from everybody else’s backyard,” she said. “Once we started to pump it out, it started to come back. It took us all night, we were pumping, and as soon as we pump, it comes back.”
It was a disgusting mess at 20 homes along Avenue M and 86th, 87th and 88th streets in Canarsie.
Residents described the horrible smell and said their belongings — clothes, shoes, equipment and food — were ruined, floating in water.
In some cases, the water was up past their ankles.
“The washer and dryer are gone. It’s that close to the furnace now. We just lost everything. We brought up what we could, but things are just floating around in the other room,” resident Roberta Symbouras said.
Residents say they started calling 311 around 2 p.m. Friday, but it took until Saturday for crews to arrive.
“My basement is at least 2 feet high with water. I have lost everything in there,” one homeowner told CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge. “To the city, I’m paying my taxes and I need my service. I have lost all of my children’s little things from many years that I kept in the basement. I need to be reimbursed, but I need the problem to be fixed.”
One homeowner says a city official told her the main sewer line was broken.
The Department of Environmental Protection told CBS2 the first attempts at clearing the blockage didn’t work, so they brought in specialized equipment. Crews worked all day Saturday, but the block in the pipes still wasn’t clear by late Saturday night.
On Sunday morning, the department said crews worked throughout the night and were able to clear the block in the sewer, which is now draining normally. They said the blockage was caused by litter and debris that should not have been in the sewer and may have been washed into the system during Tropical Storm Fay.
Residents say it’s even worse this happened during a pandemic because they’re now concerned about traces of COVID-19 in the sewage.
According to health officials, experts don’t know yet what the risk of transmission from human waste might be, but the virus that causes COVID-19 may have the potential to spread through untreated sewage.
Residents are worried their entire homes are now uninhabitable, not only because of the water damage but also the smell.
Many residents left to stay with friends and family Saturday. They say the clean-up is going to be a nightmare.
DEP said crews remained on the scene Sunday morning to wash down the streets.