Ridgewood families blast DEP for sewage backups


Homeowners gathered around on Seneca Avenue near Norman Street in Ridgewood on Thursday afternoon to get answers from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) regarding sewage problems they have been experiencing since earlier this year.

Homeowner Angela Georgescu said she started seeing sewage flood her basement as far back as eight years ago after National Grid excavated the road in front of her house.

The problem was sporadic until sometime in early 2015, when she learned that seven other houses on her block were also having trouble doing their laundry and were spending more time in their basements cleaning up.

“All our holidays are in the basement because there are more people home,” Georgescu said. “There is more sewage so we have to stay to clean instead of staying at the Thanksgiving table.”

Mark Chen Oi Ming, one of her neighbors, claimed he saw utility workers damage the sewage line eight years ago. At the time, the employees told him they would come back to make repairs but Ming did not see them again.

The Department of Health has visited the site at least twice because the sewage has overflowed into the sidewalk, neighbors claimed.

Georgescu and other homeowners have tried calling 311 and contacting local Assembly and Council members but have received no response or have been told that action cannot be taken since the sewage line is private. A representative for Assemblyman Mike Miller told the homeowners to individually call plumbers to identify the problem.

Georgescu and other homeowners hired plumbers to check their sewage lines and have all received the same answer – their individual sewage lines are clean and damage free.

DEP officials visited the site on April 2 to provide information about the sewage infrastructure and next steps the homeowners need to take to repair this problem. According to DEP officials, these homes were built more than 100 years ago, which means the sewage pipes were constructed before the city sewer was put into place.

In this case, the DEP claimed, the sewage lines are considered private property and the responsibility of the homeowner. The sewage from these seven homes collects into a private drain that then connects to the city sewer and travels to a sewage treatment plant.

DEP officials explained that because the damage comes from the private common drain, public money could not be used to fix a private drain. But Georgescu and other homeowners said they had no prior knowledge of owning the drain.

“They keep saying that this is a private line, but in our deeds it says nothing about owning the line,” Georgescu said.

DEP officials said homeowners should fix the sewage drain and then seek reimbursement from the utility companies that allegedly damaged the line. The homeowners received contact information for National Housing Services, a nonprofit organization that provides low-interest loans to homeowners throughout New York City.

Another option would be to hire a plumber to build a new service line and individually connect each homeowner to the city sewer, rendering the private drain obsolete.

Georgescu and the other homeowners were not happy with the outcome of the meeting and are going to contact lawyers to see what they can legally do to have the city pay for their repairs.

“There is nothing wrong on our side and the city shoves it in our faces that it’s ours,” Georgescu said. “We have all our chances for the truth and the law to be on our side.”