Woman living in tent, refusing to hook house onto sewer line

Woman living in tent, refusing to hook house onto sewer line

BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WECT) - It's hard to imagine. But this really happened to Ingrid Larsen. A tropical storm hit, flooded Brunswick County, and knocked out power to a sewage pump station close to her Southport home.

Then, more than 10,000 gallons of raw sewage flooded into her home.

"I woke up and the toilets were overflowing with sewage, the bathtubs were filling up, and within one hour, there was three inches of raw sewer throughout the entire home," Larsen recalled. "I was sweeping raw sewage out the front door, trying to keep it from rising inside the house."

That was 10 years ago. The damage was so severe that Larsen's 3 bedroom, 2 bathroom brick home had to be demolished. Today, she would like to use money from a settlement she received from the sewer authority to rebuild, but she's at an impasse.

The Southeaster Brunswick Sanitary District has informed Larsen the only way she'll be allowed to rebuild is if she agrees to tie back on to the same sewer line that destroyed her home. Rather than comply, she's been living in a tent on her land for the last 4 months.

Larsen has no interest in selling her land, but because of her exceptionally bad experience with the sewer line she is asking to use the septic tank that's already on her land instead. She formally requested an exemption from having to tie back onto the sewer line, but recently got a letter saying the sanitary district commissioners had denied her request.

Though they are allowed to make exceptions, the sanitary district says they see no need to in this case.

"I think that the board has made a final decision on that," Sanitary District Manager Tom Spivey told us. "She's starting a new house. She can meet all the requirements of a new house. It won't happen again if all the requirements are met."

Larsen's former home did not have a back flow preventer in the plumbing lines, which should have prevented this from happening. She said building inspectors approved her house without one, but the sanitary district insists the back flow preventer was there originally and then removed.

Either way - the sanitary district agreed to settle with Larsen out of court, paying her $119,000. She'd like to use some of the proceeds to rebuild, but says she was traumatized by what happened in her home, and does not have enough confidence in the sewer lines to tie back on even if a back flow preventer is in place.

"They are saying, 'Well, why should we let her? If we let her, than we have to let everybody else.' Well not everybody else's home was destroyed," Larsen said of why she should qualify for the exemption.

We will let you know if the sewer authority decides to make an exception after all.

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