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Byron Shire
May 17, 2021

Couple homeless after sewage floods home

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Neil Smith and Linda Clarke with their three fluffy pet dogs, which were covered in human faeces after their house was flooded with raw sewage after a council sewer main burst recently. The dogs had to be professsionally cleaned afterwards. Photo Jeff 'Three Dog Night' Dawson.

Luis Feliu

Bilambil Heights couple Neil Smith and Linda Clarke got the shock their lives when they returned home one night after work recently to find their home had been flooded with raw sewage and their pet dogs dripping in human faeces.

It was a stinking mess: the sewage had seeped up through their drains after an underground pipe burst on Sunday 24 June, oozing throughout their house and rendering it unliveable.

Tweed Shire Council crews were called out immediately and worked till lunchtime the next day to fix the pipe and stop the sewage leaking into the house.

The couple was evacuated and has since lived in a cabin at a local pet motel so they can look after their three small dogs, whose registration papers were lost in the mess.

The situation was made worse for the homeless couple when council initially refused to accept responsibility, forcing them to claim on their household contents insurance.

But last Friday, council told media it had asked its insurers ‘to sort it out’.

General manager David Keenan has agreed to meet with the couple this week.

Mr Keenan said the matter was ‘being addressed by the insurance companies acting on behalf of both parties’.

Mr Smith told Echonetdaily that it was ‘fairly disgusting to come home and see our three fluffy dogs, which had been locked up in the house all day, covered in human faeces’.

‘All we possessed from the waist down had to be cleaned or removed. A specialist cleaning company took eight days to clean the mess and of course all that comes off our contents insurance and we’ll have none left with all the other bills.

‘It had to be made safe before the builders went in there, the whole floor is destroyed, walls had to be cut down, anything contaminated had to be taken to the tip because basically the house was filled with sewage for two days.’

Mr Smith said he alerted media of the incident when he felt council was not helping enough, even though it was their burst pipe which caused the mess, and to ‘make others aware it could happen to you’.

‘I called the public health officer and he came out and inspected it, saying he’d never seen anything like it in 20 years.

‘I also rang A Current Affair and they said it was a great story, but too disgusting to run on prime-time TV.

‘We can’t move back there till it’s been rebuilt, all we’ve been left with is the ceilings, outer walls and the frame. Our daughter has had to move with family elsewhere to continue her school work.’

No other neighbours were affected. The burst main sewer line runs along the boundary between their home and a higher, neighbouring property.

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