Solving a smelly problem

August 22, 2008 3:49:01 PM PDT
You don't have to go inside a vacant Chester home to know that something is not right. You can smell a possible health hazard from the outside. The house next door is vacant and gutted, but the basement is filled with standing water that, based on the smell, is apparently tainted with sewage.

Neighbors who live on either side of the mess say their calls for help from the city had not gotten any results.

Karen Aiken has been stymied by the stench of sewage wafting from a row home next to hers on Patterson Street.

"Inside my house, it smells like sewage and it's in my basement," Aiken said.

Sewage tainted water has seeped into Aiken's basement. She's worried toxins may trigger her asthma symptons.

"When I go upstairs to bed at night I have to stick towels underneath my door, shut the door, close my window and turn on my air conditioner because it's the only way I can sleep," Aiken added.

Neighbors say they've complained to the city for months.

So they called Action News.

The mayor intervened on Friday, telling Action News the property owner has not responded to letters directing him to resolve the problem, and that in the interim, the city is trying to address it.

Last week, the city pumped water from the basement, but it filled again. Friday afternoon inspectors examined the structure to make sure it's safe enough for engineers to go in and access underground sewage pipes to trace the source of the sewage. Soon, a pump truck was out front, removing the water.

"The people from the health dept have asked sewage treatment company Delcora to send crew out and put camera in ground and see if there is a break in sewer line and that would be capped off," said Chester Mayor Wendell Butler.

The mayor says he believes the home may have to be demolished.

Engineers are also trying to figure out if a small stream is trying to break through, as Chester sits in a low point in the county.

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