Sewage bill fight leaves couple with stinking mess

HOUSTON (KTRK) -- Falling behind on utility bills could mean a temporary cut in services. But one family says an unpaid bill wound up leaving a big mess behind. So they turned to Action 13 for help.

If you don't pay your water, electric or gas bills, those companies have the right to cut off those services until you pay up. But a sewage line? One Tomball family says it happened to them, and the smell was unbearable.

Amber Nappier and her boyfriend say after forgetting to pay one of their bills, they received a notification from Inline Utilities, threatening to cut off their water and sewage lines.

"When I went to check my water, nothing had been shut off. So I thought maybe it was a warning," Nappier said.

Eventually, she made the payment online.

"We paid the full amount that was due. On the website it says, that within 24 hours, everything is going to return to normal so I didn't thought nothing of it," Nappier said.

That was January 25. However, a few weeks went by and Nappier says they noticed a fowl smell coming from underneath their trailer home.

"We investigated and saw that there was raw sewage," she said.

Inline Utilities capped their main sewer line for non-payment, so raw sewage backed up and spilled out from this over flow trap under their home.

"I did not realize that we had been capped. This whole time raw sewage had been flowing under my trailer," Nappier said.

According to this billing statement, the cap was placed on their line January 5, and payment was made on the 25th. But Nappier says they did not remove the cap until February 10.

"They told me it was my responsibility. That they were not in the wrong, that I was supposed to call them, and inform them that I had paid my bill," she said.

Nappier says that contradicts the verbiage in their sewer agreement. It states payments made online will be processed the next business morning and reconnected with 24 hours. She says the cap stayed on her line for another 16 days after they paid the bill.

So we reached out to Inline Utilities to find out what happened. The company told us it could not speak about the account unless the customer provided the company a notarized letter, granting them permission to speak with the media. It's a step no other company has ever requested in regards to an Action 13 report that we can remember.

Nappier's boyfriend tells us he called the company himself providing his name, account number, and other pertinent information to prove he was the account holder and granted permission over the phone. He told us Inline Utilities told him that was not good enough for them.

After we got involved, we discovered that the management company for the property brought in a crew to clean up the raw sewage. They told us over the phone that the utility company and customer could not come to an agreement. So as an act of good faith, they say their crews just went in to make the problem go away. null
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