24 November 2009

My Own Personal Superfund Site!

All of the townhouses in my development have pipes called laterals that transport waste water out of the unit and to the appropriate main line. As with most old pipes, especially in earthquake areas, the joints lose integrity, tree roots sneak through cracks, and gunk builds up. Repiping is a huge expense, so once a year, my Home Owners Association, henceforth referred to as the HOA, pays for RotoRooter to clean out the laterals. This was last done mid-September and includes removal of tree roots that squirmed into the pipes. At least, it was supposed to.

Yesterday I was forcibly removed from bed by Matt. He was rather perturbed by the water in the garage. His car was wet, but there wasn't much water pooled on the floor and there were no obvious leaks. I turned the shower on while Matt watched for downpours. Nothing happened after a few minutes, so we assumed it was a fluke, possibly caused by the exterior painters powerwashing.

After Matt left, it was my turn for a shower. Just in case, I checked the garage. It was raining! That's generally not supposed to happen indoors. A good 7 x 8 foot area was pouring water and ceiling onto the floor. Everything was quickly flooding. Well, fuck.

I called the drain unclogger that comes whenever I clog the garbage disposal. After describing the problem, he said I needed to get a "real" (his word, not mine) plumber and recommended a guy. I called him, and he was there within an hour. For clarity, he will be known as Plumber 1.

While waiting, I made the mistake of looking in the downstairs bathroom. HOLY SHIT. In EVERY sense of the word. The room was flooded and the toilet and floor were covered in raw sewage. Needless to say, I closed the door and prayed the smell wouldn't escape.

Plumber 1 looked around the house, surveyed the damage, poked the ceiling in the garage, and gave me the bad news. There was so much pressure built up in the lateral that the cap was bulging. Looking for a place to vent, the evil pressure chose the weakest point known as the downstairs toilet. Instead of merely overflowing, the wax seal that attaches the toilet to the exit pipe blew. All the disgusting water drained through the floor and showered the garage in raw sewage. His guess was that a tree root was blocking the very same lateral that was cleaned a mere eight weeks ago!

The ceiling was so wet that integrity was out of the question. Plumber 1 examined the pipes in the garage ceiling while explaining how the system needed to be drained before anything could be fixed. Actually, make that drained and sanitized. Something about raw sewage being a health hazard. Ew.

My first call was to the drain unclogger, now known as Plumber 2. Plumber 1 explained the problem to Plumber 2, who then scheduled two of his men to visit within an hour. The next call was to the sanitation and restoration company recommended by Plumber 1. They were booked until midafternoon, so I scheduled their arrival for 1930.

By the time Plumber 1 left, I really needed to use the bathroom. I knocked on my neighbor Bunny's door, and she was kind enough to let me in without explanation. She came back with me to my personal Superfund Site, then went to retrieve the HOA vice-president, Michelle. In the meantime, I started taking pictures of the damage. Then Plumber 2 arrived and performed their own assessment. All three garbage cans were drafted into catching the flood of doom while I hid upstairs in the less smelly zone.

Michelle performed her own survey and talked with me and Plumber 2. Then she insisted on bringing me a cup of calming tea. Between that amazing cup of tea and her declaration that the HOA would be paying for this mess, I finally started to feel better. Bunny and Michelle were absolutely amazing in asking all the right questions and making sure everything was covered. Michelle even said I could hang onto the mug until I had running water again!

After everybody left, I finally got to go to work. I was never so happy to arrive at the office and I got an amazing parking spot. Things were finally looking up.

I called Matt from my desk to let him know how the catastrophe had played out. He had five minutes of spare time, so he was tasked with finding a hotel for the night. There are a million hotels in the area, but we needed one that wouldn't evict the mutts. They were safe for the day in the master bedroom, but I had no intention of leaving them there overnight. Matt found a room at the Sheraton Gateway and forwarded me the confirmation email.

I took one look at the email and immediately called Matt. Did he read the email carefully? Nope. Did he read the subject? Not that either. Well, he should have since the phone rep booked the room for the Sheraton Gateway Atlanta instead of the Sheraton Gateway LAX. Oops. The phone rep was kind enough to waive the same-day cancellation fee and moved the reservation.

Our garage was very much off-limits, so Matt retrieved me from work while my car remained in my amazing spot. Upon arriving home, we quickly packed an overnight bag and walked over to thank and update Michelle. I may have used her bathroom.

Next it was sanitation time! He arrived promptly and I explained the nature of the disaster to him. He went to work all over the house to determine all the areas of infection. Michelle joined us for the estimation part of the show since she would be writing the check. Just for the sanitation and removal of the goop of doom it was $2000. After getting a few signatures, he got to work scaring the dogs with loud equipment. Sadly, he wouldn't be able to do anything with the garage ceiling that night since it needed to be tested for asbestos. After testing and, if necessary, removal his contractor could start repairing the ceiling and bathroom floor.

Speaking of the bathroom floor, he did clean it, but the planks need to be replaced. As long as we're replacing the planks, perhaps we should tile the bathroom? YES.

By the time he finished with decontamination, it was almost 11 and the dehumidifiers and air purifier were competing for Cause of Headache. By the time we were in our hotel room, it was nearly midnight. But there was water! Clean water! And it was all properly contained! The dogs, on the other hand, we very confused as to what was happening.

Skip not enough hours and we found ourselves back in the car, heading home. The asbestos company called to schedule their testing. I called Plumber 1 to schedule repairs. Matt dropped me off at work and then headed to school.

I was there for almost an hour trying to collect work to do at home before I had to vamoose. The asbestos guy was first to arrive. He took his samples and gave me his opinion. While he would still test the samples in the lab, he was 99% positive that it was asbestos. Due to the way that it had been sprayed all over the garage ceiling, the best option is to remove all of it from the ceiling, pipes, walls, spiders, et cetera. The ceiling would have to be re-soundproofed. It could probably be done in one long day, but the EPA needs to approve, so that is not happening until after Thanksgiving. I'll be sure to take pictures of the space cadets when they get to work.

Last, but certainly not least, came Plumber 1. He is replacing the wax ring around the toilet, making sure everything is nicely sealed, and performing a full inspection of the pipes in the garage ceiling. By the time he leaves, the important majority of our house will be cleared for takeoff! First stop, Planet Laundry!

That Which Was Lost:
*tiki statue that guards the front door (he was in the garage due to the exterior painting)
*a pile of beach towels
*two beach bags
*two cases bottled sparkling water of the lime persuasion
*an extra-long hose and spray nozzle
*a no longer very convenient Victorinox boarding tote
*two 10-packs paper towels


Update: All three samples tested positive for asbestos. The asbestos guy is now writing up his proposal and estimate. I can hardly wait!

Further Update: We have officially surpassed the HOA's insurance deductible! The asbestos estimate is just under $3000! I have to write an official letter saying that the asbestos removal is due to an emergency repair situation so the EPA can waive its 14 day waiting period!


moonlightalice said...

Oh my god! That's just nuts! Here's to you getting your house back...

dreamerj25 said...

Ohhh nooo. That's horrible. But I'm glad you have some very helpful people to clam you and aid you through this. Sounds like you are in very good hands, and even some deep pockets. Ahh, the perils of home/townhouse ownership. ;)

"All three garbage cans were drafted into catching the flood of doom while I hid upstairs in the less smelly zone." - is the best line in here.

"a no longer very convenient Victorinox boarding tote" - gets second best line award.