Raw sewage leak displaces condo residents

Lakeland, Florida -- To say it stinks is an understatement.

In Lakeland, half a dozen apartments have been evacuated after a sewage leak that city admits could have been avoided.

For Tina Light and her husband Art, it was just about the most revolting situation she could imagine. They and six of their neighbors' apartments at the Sunset Lakes Condominiums in Lakeland were filled- with raw sewage.

"It stinks. Stinks bad," said Light.

It gurgled up from this drains, from the bathtub, and the toilet. The backup is a result of a Lakeland utilities pump shutting down.

"The economy is bad and you think you're finding a good place to live and then this happens" said neighbor Kadeja Alston, who worried her place might be next.

"Our customers are used to far better treatment than this," said Lakeland Water Utilities Director Robert Connor.

Conner says the problem was part mechanical, part human error. An electrical issue initially caused the shutdown, triggering all sorts of warning lights and alarms. But instead of responding in the normal 15 minutes, it took the shift operator and shift supervisor somewhere between three and five hours.

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The city was still investing why it took so long. Both face serious disciplinary action.

"It's gonna happen. Things break and we need to respond quickly enough that it doesn't become an issue to the customers," said Conner.

"They definitely should be held responsible for that," said neighbor Vance Smith.

"It's not fair to us. We're suffering out here. Waiting," said Light.

Had they responded faster, all of the damage, says Connors, could have been avoided.

Luckily there is a Florida law that decides who is responsible for paying for sewage lead damages. That's why the city is picking up the tab for damages, and helping residents pay for a temporary place to stay until it can all be fixed.

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