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Thurmont sees minor sewer
problems during flooding

Lawsuit resulting from 2003 floods has 2007 court date

Ingrid Mezo

(7/7) Thurmont, still in the middle of a lawsuit due to sewage backups in some homes during flooding in 2003, only suffered minor problems due to last week’s heavy rains.

Water and sewer superintendent Gary Dingle said a total of 4.6 inches of rain fell in town during the last week, and caused only small inconveniences.

‘‘We had some bypassing at the sewer plant, very minor, and we had two manholes overflowing, very minor," Dingle said.

The manhole overflows occurred on Water Street and Moser Road.

‘‘... We were doing fine for a day and a half, [but] in the last half of day two we got [about 7/10ths] of an inch [of rain] in 45 minutes. That’s a lot of rain in that short amount of time," he said.

The start date for a civil trial in the multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the Town of Thurmont recently was been moved to May 7, 2007. The lawsuit is a result of several flooding incidents in May 2003. In that month, several inches of rain fell in the area, causing sewage to back up into the homes of nine families, mostly residing on Ironmaster Court. During the sewage backup, muck from the pipelines spewed from toilets and faucets in residents’ homes.

According to court records, the residents accused the town of ‘‘failing to properly design, construct and/or maintain the Town of Thurmont’s stormwater and sewage systems."

The residents are also suing for trespass and private and public nuisance, said Brian Jablon, attorney for the homeowners. Trespass refers to the actual encroachment of the waste products on the residents’ homes, Jablon explained. Private and public nuisance refer to an ‘‘unreasonable interference with someone’s property."

Some of the plaintiffs are suing for emotional damages caused by having to live with the sewage in their homes. Some needed to live in a hotel, with family, or in a mobile home in their driveways while their homes were repaired.

Four insurance companies have also added on to the list of plaintiffs, including Met Life Auto and Home, United Services Automobile Association, State Farm Insurance and State Auto Property and Casualty Insurance Co.

Insurance companies are allowed to file suit to recoup some of the money that they paid out to homeowners.

If the jury finds in favor of the plaintiffs, some of the money they are asking for will go to the insurance companies.

‘‘The main defense is that we do not believe that the town has any liability because this is the result of a 100-year flood, an enormous rainstorm that resulted in a flood," said Ralph Arnsdorf, attorney for the town. ‘‘And the town is not responsible for acts of God.

‘‘They have an appropriate amount budgeted for their sewer systems, that’s why people have homeowners insurance."

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