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Hughson church deals with stinky mess after city sewer project goes wrong

Aug 18, 2023

By Marlee Ginter

February 2, 2023 / 11:48 PM / CBS Sacramento

HUGHSON — Sheila Parnell showed CBS13 the mess they've had on their hands at the Hughson Church of Christ for nearly two months.

A cement and sewage mix came spewing out of the pipes throughout the church property during a city sewer project. City officials say a contractor mistakenly pumped concrete slurry into the church sewer lines while filling in an old sewer line nearby.

City Manager Merry Mayhew wrote CBS13 in an email response:

"The contractor was to move sewer laterals from an old sewer line that was collapsing to a newer residential sewer line. Once all laterals were moved, they were to pump a concrete slurry into the old industrial line to fill it. There were two lateral lines that they missed, the church and the house. The slurry flowed through the laterals into the two buildings."

"We've sat here for two months without any use of sewage or water. We aren't able to function normally here. We have a lot of elderly people here who don't want to use a cold porta-potty," said Parnell, the church preschool principal.

Tia Kilgore, the minister's daughter, said the sewer line mix-up even forced her parents out of their home, which is on church grounds.

"I keep saying the word awful but you wish that there are things you can do, and unfortunately we're up against companies and cities," said Kilgore.

Mayhew wouldn't do an interview on camera but told us over email that the contractor is responsible for the mess. Mayhew wrote:

"We are working every day to keep the pressure on both the contractor and the insurance company to resolve this quickly. The City has been attempting to work with the contractor and their insurance since this occurred in early December. I fully understand the residents' frustration with this process. I myself am frustrated that the contractor's insurance is taking so long to assist the residents. The city is continuing to work on other options to get this resolved as soon as possible."

Church leaders aren't buying it.

"That's what they're saying but we have not heard from anybody. Nobody is contacting us, you know? How are you guys doing? What can we do to help out?" said Parnell.

Mayhew said it's standard practice with construction contracts that the contractor has insurance and indemnified the city. The church tried to go through its own insurance but was told it wouldn't cover faulty or defective construction.

It's a messy mishap that's left a church praying for more than a cleanup. They want those responsible to step up.

"Just anybody to accept responsibility for it so that hopefully we can start to move forward," said Kilgore.

The church has already spent more than $60,000 — nearly all of its savings — to clean up the hazardous waste. Meanwhile, they still have all the repairs to work on.

Marlee Ginter is an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist. She joined CBS13 in January 2020 from WOOD TV8 in Grand Rapids. Prior to that she worked at KOMO TV in Seattle, Washington; WISH TV in Indianapolis, Indiania; WSPA TV in Spartanburg, South Carolina; and WTOC TV in Savannah, Georgia.

First published on February 2, 2023 / 11:48 PM

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