Sewage Spews Into Orange Apartment

By: Lindsay Puccio
By: Lindsay Puccio

July 27, 2006

An Orange County apartment renter is homeless after her landlord refused to clean up inches of raw sewage that has backed up into her apartment.

This has been going on for about a month now. Sewage service officials said the problem is the septic tank that the landlord was approved for is too small for the number of people living in the building.

Annie Payne showed pictures of the day she heard a gurgling noise coming from the drain in the floor of her Orange County apartment. She quickly realized it was releasing an awful sewage odor. Annie called her landlord, Donnie McDaniel, who sent out a plumber to fix it. Later, the smell made a comeback, and brought actual sewage with it.

"We are talking about human fecal matter all over my apartment Two inches worth," said Payne.

About $500 worth of Annie's property are ruined. Her furniture, clothes, and personal belongings are covered in human feces.

"We have to wear boots to walk [across the floor] to try to protect ourselves from exposure," said Payne.

Days went by and Annie said the landlord refused to clean it up. She checked out of the hotel she was staying in and did the unthinkable.

"I went out and purchased rubber gloves, masks and bleach and we cleaned it ourselves," said Payne.

She then moved back into her apartment, throwing away bags of clothes that were damaged and buying new furniture, only to find out weeks later it would happen again.

This time the landlord tried to stop it himself. Annie's neighbor, who didn't want to give his name, said the landlord posted a sign on his door telling him he wasn't allowed to run water or flush the toilet.

"I can't take a shower. [The sign was up] for three days. I can't do that, I can't do that," the neighbor said.

The landlord said he is in the process of trying to replace the small septic tank with a bigger one, but it's going to take time. Meanwhile, the waste is making Annie physically sick.

"I got so ill and I started having these terrible pains in my stomach. Who knows what it is--what I've been exposed to. God only knows," said Payne.

Now she has no place to stay but a feces filled apartment. The landlord refuses to pay for her to stay in a hotel, saying Annie has not paid for all of this month's rent.

Annie said she wants to move out, but she doesn't have enough money. She has filed a civil warrant for $5,000 against the landlord. She's requesting money for damages to her clothes and furniture, as well as hotel bills. They are both due in court on August 9, 2006.

Health Department officials have been notified, but we weren't able to find out what they are going to do about the situation. They have not returned our phone calls.

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