Westmont Borough residents John and Anne McGrath addressed the Greater Johnstown Water Authority on Thursday after a blocked sewer main owned by the authority spewed an estimated 6,000 gallons of toxic raw sewage into their home in November of 2022.
The torrent of sewage was 15 inches high and resulted in approximately sixty thousand dollars in damages.
“It was a biohazard zone that took 3 weeks to clean up with people in hazmat suits,” said John McGrath. “Unfortunately, the RDM which manages the system for the water authority has just walked away from the claim and their insurance company says that they’re not going to provide any coverage for us.”
The Greater Johnstown Water Authority’s insurance agency, the Gallagher Bassett, refused to cover the claim citing the Pennsylvania’s Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act.
“We have insurance to cover this kind of claim, It’s up to the insurance company to make a determination how they want to handle it. Our insurance company has said, we don’t think there is a legal basis for liability. We’re not paying it. If we want to keep our insurance in place, we can’t mess with them on that If we didn’t know the line was going to be plugged up then it’s not our responsibility.”
The McGrath’s told us that while they can replace the physical damages there are some thing that are irreplaceable.
“The loss is about 62,000 dollars in all the damage, destruction, and cleanup and that doesn’t include things like my father’s pilots log from WW2, It was covered in raw sewage. This isn’t included in the 62,000, this is stuff that you can’t replace.”
“One of the most difficult things and hardest things to accept that was lost were videos of our children, As infants as babies growing up. Our 15-month-old grandson, he’s never going to see videos of his mom as a baby because they don’t exist anymore. They’re in a landfill somewhere. They were covered in fifteen inches of raw sewage. That along with toys that we had hoped passed through the generations that we had hoped to share with him this summer when he came to visit. Irreplaceable, invaluable, just, it’s heartbreaking.”
The McGrath’s say that unless they receive full compensation by Friday, June 2nd, they will resort to legal means.