Farmington neighbors file notice to sue 7 months after sewer flooding

Flooding on Nov. 10, 2023, caused hundreds of thousands in property damage for 11 houses in Farmington.

Flooding on Nov. 10, 2023, caused hundreds of thousands in property damage for 11 houses in Farmington. (Tyler Erickson)

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FARMINGTON — In November of 2023, the Ericksons were heading downstairs to have a family movie night, but were met by a reeking cesspool rising up from the drains in their showers, bathtubs, toilets and maintenance closets.

At the end of the evening, 6 inches of standing water had contaminated everything touching the ground, the walls, and the ground itself.

Walking outside on that winter night to get a break from the stench, they realized they were not the only ones. Ten other homes in the Farmington neighborhood had also been flooded with sewage.

Mike Kroon, the Ericksons' neighbor, said the community rallied together, moving each other's furniture from the basements, while figuring out what to do.

A representative from the Central Davis Sewer District said it would cover the cost of the district's preferred remediation company, which suggested the neighbors only needed to put carpet fans down, Kroon said, but his family decided "to take the chance and go with a more thorough cleaning," because of the contaminated sewer water.

With grandchildren, the Kroons "wanted to make sure no one was going to get sick" afterward, they said, which required drywall and insulation be removed 2 feet from the ground, the entire flooring pulled out and a sanitizing spray applied.

A Farmington neighborhood, filled with trucks to remove sewer water from residents' basements, Nov. 10, 2023.
A Farmington neighborhood, filled with trucks to remove sewer water from residents' basements, Nov. 10, 2023. (Photo: Tyler Erickson)

Initially, no one was quite sure what happened, but it became more clear as the days went by. The Central Davis Sewer District said in an email that "we have reason to believe that Cherry Hill emptied a large amount of water into our system quickly, which overwhelmed the pipes, but we are continuing to investigate."

The neighborhood happens to be downslope from Cherry Hill Water Park, 1325 S. Main in Kaysville, and on the night in question, the business had drained its 150,000-gallon lazy river into the sewer system. According to the sewer district, the discharge was 625 gallons per minute. The sewer has a capacity of only 380 gallons per minute.

According to Cherry Hill's insurance claim agent, "There were several contributing factors, but there is no disagreement that the discharge from Cherry Hill overtaxed the system."

The Central Davis Sewer District promptly paid $4,000 to each household for cleanup, as part of a no-fault insurance policy. To date, it has split up around $150,000 in payments between all the residents, or around $9,600 per household.

"Even though Cherry Hill caused and is responsible for the incident, the district has advanced initial reimbursements to the homeowners pursuant to its 'no fault' policy to help with cleanup expenses," a district spokesperson said to residents. "This is all we can legally do."

But Tyler Erickson said the expenses — from mitigation, cleanup, property loss and restoration — began stacking up. His bill for the initial cleanup, ripping out carpets and flooring and drywall, sanitizing and drying, came out to over $30,000. The family was given an estimate to return their basement to its previous condition — over $73,000.

The Kroons said it cost them $21,000 for cleaning, and they were quoted $29,000 for the rebuild. They said they also lost over $7,000 in property damage.

In general, Erickson said, the neighbors' damage ranged from between $30,000 and $115,000, depending on the house.

The initial shock subsided, making way for grief and frustration. It wasn't the loss of possessions, according to Jennifer Erickson, it was "the loss of the way we use our home."

"We have a high school senior who has a bedroom in the basement, and now, in his last year at home, he is displaced and sleeping in his little brother's room," she said in an email to the sewer district. "It is important to me to be the home where the kids want to be, and we lost that." Right before the holidays, they lost the ability to host out-of-town family members.

Flooding on Nov. 10, 2023, caused hundreds of thousands in property damage for 11 houses in Farmington.
Flooding on Nov. 10, 2023, caused hundreds of thousands in property damage for 11 houses in Farmington. (Photo: Mike Kroon)

Cherry Hill also filed an insurance claim, but after months of questioning the water park and the sewer district, Erickson felt neither side was helping. "Neither party is taking responsibility for this tragedy, and we are left stuck in the middle! In the meantime, our basements are destroyed, and our lives are in chaos, with no end in sight," he said in an email to the sewer district.

The neighborhood, with basements torn up and no compensation in sight, continued to wait while the slow bureaucratic nightmare unfolded. The neighbors banded together, attending sewer district board meetings to ask for updates and resolution.

They put together slideshows and emailed the insurance companies weekly. They submitted public records requests, most of which were denied or the wrong documentation was sent. They were caught in between two parties, trying to mediate a situation they did not cause, they said.

The sewer district sent engineers to inspect their pipes, saying they were in excellent condition, the residents say. Cherry Hill said it did not discharge water any faster than what it has been doing for the last 20 years.

The district's insurance agents said "the homeowners are partially responsible for the damage since the homes did not have backflow preventers on their sewer laterals," according to a press release from sewer district manager Jill Jones.

Jones said the district's professional engineering analysis showed that "the flow from Cherry Hill was exponentially greater than it has been in the past. Cherry Hill may assert that it did nothing different, but the evidence of the surcharge indicates differently."

Jones also said the "change in draining process coincided with a change in ownership of Cherry Hill."

"No one has the documents that can specifically either defend themselves or nail the other person to the wall," Kroon said. "As it became more of a legal issue, they have become less and less talkative."

After almost seven months of fighting for payment from adjusters, Tyler Erickson said he received an email from Cherry Hill's agent, saying it is "currently unable to offer recovery assistance based upon applicable policy exclusions."

Both insurance companies denied their claims, leaving 11 households without sufficient compensation for the floods, neighbors say. Wednesday, the neighbors gave notice to the Central Davis Sewer District of their intention to file a lawsuit, the first action required to sue a public entity.

But if past experience is any indication, the neighborhood may not be receiving compensation anytime soon. "We are acting to bring resolution within our limits of authority," Jones said in a release. "Our fiduciary responsibility to all the district's citizens dictates that we follow the legal process, even when it is slow."

"As emotionally draining as it is," Kroon said, "we're not facing this alone, and that's one of the saving graces in this whole thing."

Cherry Hill's legal representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


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