Homeowner sues New London over sewage backup

New London — A Vauxhall Street homeowner has filed suit against the city in an effort to recoup the cost of cleanup and damages from a sewage back up in February that flooded the home’s basement with raw sewage.

Todd and Terri Ceravolo, along with the home’s co-owner, Tina Cook, bought the duplex at 454 Vauxhall St. in August and claim that on Feb. 15 raw sewage and wastewater discharged into the basement on one side of the home. The home was under renovation at the time of the incident.

Attorney Jason B. Burdick, who represents the plaintiffs in a suit filed on June 28 in New London Superior Court, said there was a foot of wastewater that damaged items in the basement that included an heirloom dining room set and hot water heater.

The owners are asking for more than $30,000 in damages from the city and Veolia Water, which is contracted by the city to maintain its water and wastewater systems, to cover the cost of the damaged items, renovations and cleanup.

The suit also names the city’s risk manager, Paul Gills, who Burdick claims had acknowledged to the couple that the city was to blame for the incident and had promised compensation.

Burdick said instead of compensation, however, the city “strung Mr. Ceravolo along, taking advantage of the fact he has a serious illness and having financial difficulties.”

To date, Burdick said the city has “not offered him a dime.”

Gills said he was not at liberty to discuss all of the details of incident because of the pending litigation. He did say that typically the city’s Water Pollution Control Authority and Veolia, in rare cases such as these, will work with homeowners to mitigate any health hazards and simultaneously look to determine liability.

In this particular case, Gills said, it was determined that an illegal floor drain connected to the sewer system was the point of entry for the sewage into the basement.

The suit, however, claims the backup was due to negligence and carelessness of the city and Veolia for not properly maintaining the wastewater system. The suit also alleges the city was aware that sewage backups are persistent at commercial and residential properties in the Vauxhall Street area.

The suit also alleges that Gills told Todd Ceravolo that if he retained the services of an attorney, “no payments for the loss or destruction of the property would be made and if payments were made, it would be after several years of litigation.”

As a result of the claims, the suit alleges “intentional infliction of emotional distress” and “civil conspiracy” against Gills and Brenda Gillis, a senior property claim analyst with Connecticut Interlocutory Risk Management Association.

City Attorney Jeff Londregan was not immediately available to comment. The city has not yet filed a response to the allegations contained in the suit.

g.smith@theday.com

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