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Norwich - Inspectors from the city health, building and fire marshal's offices condemned an eight-unit apartment house at 44 Laurel Hill Ave. last week after discovering a broken sewer pipe had caused raw sewage to back into the apartments and leak into the basement and yard areas.
Fourteen occupants, including an infant and a 4-year-old child, were displaced by the condemnation and are being assisted by Norwich Human Services to find new housing. The city placed a relocation lien totaling $26,580 on the property to recover the potential costs incurred by tenants to move and possibly to pay the difference if rent in the new place is higher.
The building is owned by Carp Realty LLC of Dayville, which acquired the house from Paul B. Kaplan of Plainfield on Feb. 20, according to city tax records.
Uncas Health District Director Patrick McCormack said his office initially was alerted to a potential problem by a tenant complaint about a hazardous sinkhole in the yard. Uncas Health District inspector David Coughlin contacted city building and fire officials to join the inspection on March 5 after numerous problems were discovered.
The entire building was condemned, and tenants were ordered to move by last Friday, city officials said.
During the March 5 inspection, officials discovered a broken sewer pipe in the basement that had allowed raw sewage to flow in the basement from all the above units. Some apartments had sewage backing up into showers when tenants flushed toilets or ran water in a sink, the inspection report said.
McCormack said the sinkhole was caused by the leaking sewage. At one point, a tenant placed an old mattress in the hole to prevent people from stepping in the area, he said.
The building also had numerous structural problems described in the post-inspection memo written by Building Official Greg Arpin. One unit had a large rotted hole in the bathroom floor. The north exterior wall was rotted and had raw sewage seeping out of a hole. "Plumbing and electrical issues everywhere," the report said.
Fire Marshal Jake Manke contacted a hazardous materials unit to report that fuel oil had been leaking into the ground from two old tanks on the property.
"Health Department has condemned the entire building as it is unsanitary in its present condition," the inspection report said. "Building shall remain unoccupied until a walkthrough has been conducted and allowed by all departments involved," Arpin wrote.
Lee Ann Gomes, supervisor of social work for Norwich Human Services, said tenants from three of the six apartments that had been occupied in the building have found new housing. T
he others are staying with family or friends, and Norwich Human Services is assisting them with finding new apartments. One tenant has a dog that is being boarded temporarily at the Norwich pound, Gomes said.
One month earlier, Arpin had condemned Apartment 2 in the building - which had been vacant with new tenants planning to move in - citing numerous safety problems and unsanitary conditions, including water pipes cut off under the kitchen sink and a large hole in the sink cabinet open to the basement.
Domenic Carpionato, a principal at Carp Realty, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. Arpin said Carpionato initially asked that the building not be condemned and that he be allowed to make immediate repairs. But Arpin said the condemnation was necessary because of the unsanitary conditions. Arpin said he has not heard from Carpionato this week, and no one has applied for permits to repair the problems.
Carp Realty took over ownership of the building from Kaplan just two weeks before the condemnation. Carp Realty had purchased the building in June 2013 for $125,000 and immediately turned over ownership to Kaplan in a quit-claim deed.