Is sewer backup an act of god or not?

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ARNOLD, MO (KPLR) – When is a sewer backup in your basement an act of God or not an act of God?  That’s the question some Arnold residents are asking after finding raw sewage in their basements several times in the past two and a half months.

The first time, April 9th, the City of Arnold responded quickly telling homeowner Grace Reeves she would be compensated for her losses.  “I had a completely finished basement and I’ve already received my check for a lot of the stuff I lost.”

But Friday, June 19 the sewer system backed up again, this time damaging more of her basement.  The difference was the sanitary sewer had been sold by the city of Arnold to Missouri American Water Company on May 22.

“I called the sewer company and said I had eleven inches of water in my basement.  I need help to get it out and they said sorry we can’t.”

Several days later the utility’s insurance firm, Travelers, told her the backup was an “act of God.”  “My question was if it wasn’t an act of God in April, why is it an act of God now when there has been no miraculous repairs or work done?”  Reeves asked.

Neighbor Hazel Neibert got a letter from the same insurance firm telling her Missouri American Water “cannot be held legally liable for this incident as it is not negligence.”

Arnold City Administrator Bryan Richison said city officials are “disappointed Missouri American Water’s insurance company has chosen to take this position.”

By late Wednesday afternoon the firm’s spokesperson said the company decided today to “take a second look at this situation and review each case individually.”  Ann Dettmer said Missouri American owns 50 sewer systems in Missouri and is committed to spending five million dollars over the next four years upgrading the aging sanitary sewer system in Arnold.

About 25 homes in Arnold were damaged by the sewer backups.  Some residents are discussing a class action lawsuit if the firm declines to pay for the cleanup and repairs.

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