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Tree Roots, Grease Caused Melrose Sewage Backup

MELROSE (CBS) – The Mayor of Melrose now knows what caused the June 20th sewage backup that still has some people out of their homes.

"Very old pipes, tree roots in there and a lot of greasy, sludgy kind of stuff. It just backed right up to the four homes," Melrose Mayor Gail Infurna said.

Photos and a summary of the investigation by Weston & Sampson were released Monday.

"Of course the house is not livable," Jenny Zhou explained as an insurance adjuster walked through her sister-in-law's home.

The backup of grease and tree roots pushed a rush of sewage water through the 113-year-old pipe and into at least four homes on Brazil Street in Melrose.

"When you're looking at the video, you're just like 'oh my gosh,'" Mayor Infurna said.

Melrose sewage
Tree roots growing in Melrose sewer line (WBZ-TV)

For Zhou, she knows the home on Brazil Street needs a lot of work. It's a place her sister-in-law and her three kids cannot return to.

"The kids are only seven, the twins, and five so they are too young to live in these conditions," she said.

For now the family is living with another relative, currently sharing one bedroom because the hotel stay the city was offering until the 15th, wasn't enough.

"The project for this house… takes maybe up to two months. Everything that touched the sewage water has to be ripped off," Zhou said.

"Once the house is deemed habitable, we have to do the responsible thing," said Mayor Infurna. She added that some hotel stays have already been extended and to her knowledge only one family remains in a hotel.

Zhou says that sewage water was coming out of the toilet so fast it was only a matter of seconds before it was in the kitchen.

"Underneath the washing machine, water heater and the fridge was all covered by the sewage water," she explained.

Homes on Brazil Street in Melrose were flooded with sewage. (WBZ-TV)

The city says it has spent between $40,000 and $50,000 helping these families with initial emergency response, covering everything from professional cleaners, storage, and hotel stays.

These families now want to know who is going to foot the rest of the bill.

"So far we don't have any clear answers," Zhou said.

The Mayor and Deputy Mayor, urge people to file their insurance claims and hope to have these answers in a few weeks. The Mayor says any permitting costs for homeowners' fixes will also be waived.

As they continue to look into the city's pipes, and the independent investigation by Weston & Sampson of Reading, they know one thing for sure. "What we know is the line is fully functioning today it's probably as clear as it's been in decades," Deputy Mayor Robert Van Campen said.

A city meeting Monday night will be public's first opportunity to speak on the issue.

"Our hearts really do go out with them I mean it was devastating. It was just awful," Mayor Infurna said.

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