Headed home from work Thursday afternoon with the intention of finishing his Valentine’s Day plans, Chad Ortiz saw a water main break on Hillside Drive in Bettendorf and felt bad for the homeowners affected by the water.

Then he got home to his house on Heather Lane and realized he was one of them.

Ortiz is among about 28 Bettendorf homeowners near Grant Wood Elementary School whose basements flooded Thursday when water from the water main break flowed into a manhole, causing sewer backups.

On Friday, Heather Lane was transformed from a quiet residential neighborhood to a parking lot for cleaning company vans and garbage receptacles as cleanup efforts continued.

City Administrator Decker Ploehn said residents affected by the sewer backups were being instructed to file claims for their cleanup costs with their insurance companies, Iowa American Water and the city. Ploehn said officials from the city and Iowa American Water are discussing who should be responsible for covering which costs.

Ploehn said it was too soon to know how much the cleanup would cost.

The water main broke near the school about 11 a.m. Thursday, interrupting water service to 80 to 100 Iowa American customers, spokeswoman Lisa Reisen said.

Water service was restored around 6:30 p.m. Thursday, and affected customers were notified that a boil order would be in place until at least midnight Friday, Reisen said.

Ortiz said he leased his basement to a tenant whose belongings were wet and muddy from the silt left behind when the water receded.

Ortiz said his tenant may have been most upset about the possible loss of his $3,000 custom-built computer system.

“They’re going to try to salvage it, but it’s not likely,” he said.

Janie Bash of Werner Restoration was more confident, saying that her company has a special cleaning and drying process for electronics.

Werner Restoration was one of several cleaning companies assisting residents in the neighborhood Friday, and Bash said it’s not uncommon for there to be an event, such as a flash flood, that damages several homes in a neighborhood at once.

“When it happens, it usually happens like this,” she said.

Bash said the company will remove all of the wet and damaged items, cut away the water-soaked drywall and let the basements dry completely before sanitizing them. Then it will be up to the homeowners to find contractors to repair the damage.

Bash said her company even has a process to clean and sanitize the prized LEGO collection of a boy who lives next door to Ortiz.

Several houses up the street, Al Wilson said he had 15 to 18 inches of water in his basement. When the water receded, it left behind 1 to 1 ½ inches of silt picked up as the water rushed out of the hole in the street and into the manhole.

Wilson said his basement was three-quarters finished, with the rest of the basement serving as a utility room. He said he has been unable to get his furnace going and thinks his washer and dryer both are ruined.

“Everything down there is trashed,” he said.

Both Ortiz and Wilson said they had never had trouble with sewer backups in their basements before.


EARLIER STORY

Water service restored to flooded homes; boil order extended

Brian Wellner at 9:30 a.m.

Water service was restored around 6:30 p.m. Thursday to about 80 to 100 Iowa American Water customers affected by a water main break Thursday in Bettendorf.

A boil order for the customers will remain in effect until at least midnight tonight, said Iowa American Water spokeswoman Lisa Reisen.

The break occurred around 11 a.m. in front of Grant Wood Elementary School. Water from the break flowed into a nearby manhole, causing sewer backups in 28 nearby homes.

The City of Bettendorf offered owners of the flooded homes a free night’s stay at The Lodge hotel, will offer residents daily garbage pickup as the cleanup from the flooding continues and will reimburse them for reasonable cleanup fees, City Administrator Decker Ploehn said. 


EARLIER STORY

Water main break floods 28 Bettendorf homes

Brian Wellner at 6:21 p.m.

A water main break Thursday in Bettendorf flooded 28 homes with sewage, including a day care.

The city treated affected residents to a Valentine’s Day present — one night free stay at The Lodge in Bettendorf — but at least one resident said the backup into her basement caused $10,000 in damage and, far worse, the loss of memorabilia such as a photo album.

City Administrator Decker Ploehn called the flooding a “freak situation” in which water pouring from a water main break flowed into a nearby manhole and entered sewer lines in a Bettendorf neighborhood. The resulting surge in the sewer lines caused the sewage backups, he said.

“This has not happened in my 23 years, not to this degree,” Ploehn said.

Jana Michaelis, who runs a day care in the basement of her home on Hillside Drive, figured something was wrong when a 3-year-old student told her the “potty” was broken.

“There’s something wrong with the potty. No, there’s something really wrong,” Michaelis recalled the child telling her.

Michaelis looked and said water was “gushing” out of her basement toilet. She ran upstairs and saw water pouring onto the street from an underground pipe. She then evacuated her six students from the basement, leaving their shoes behind on the soggy floor.

The water main break occurred about 11 a.m. near the intersection of Hillside Drive and Woodland Lane, said Iowa American Water spokeswoman Lisa Reisen.

The break was expected to be repaired Thursday night, and affected residents were asked to boil their cooking and drinking water until about 9 p.m. today as a precaution, Reisen said.

The break forced nearby Grant Wood Elementary School to dismiss students early about 1 p.m. Thursday. Bettendorf Community School District spokeswoman Celeste Miller said water service at the school had to be shut off because of the water main break.

Students won’t be returning to school until Tuesday because today is a scheduled day off and Monday is Presidents Day.

The homes affected are on Hillside Drive from Woodland Lane to Greenway Drive and on Heather Lane.

Ploehn said if water service is not restored by 8 a.m. today, the city will contract for porta-potty services.

The city also will start daily garbage pickup today and continue as needed for affected residents. An emergency parking restriction is in effect in the area through the weekend so the city can collect debris. Ploehn said residents need to park on the odd side of the street on odd-numbered days and on even sides of the street on even-numbered days, making the change at 6 a.m. each day.

Ploehn said the city will reimburse reasonable costs associated with cleanup services, adding that at this time Bettendorf is taking full responsibility for the incident.

“We agree to be the point folks on it,” Ploehn said. “It’s simple to have one agency handle the specifics.”

Brian Schmidt, Bettendorf’s public works director, said the city’s sewer system is in “sound condition” and he wasn’t concerned about another incident like Thursday’s break happening again.

Schmidt said the eight-inch water main break created enough volume of water to cause pavement to buckle and to weaken and inundate the manhole cover.

Michaelis’ house is next to Grant Wood and took about four inches of water in the basement.

“It’s still sitting there, at least about three if not four inches in some spots,” Michaelis said.

As crews worked outside, Michaelis kept busy crisscrossing the soaked basement floor in boots collecting anything that might still be salvageable. Many toys, clothes, books and shoes were pitched outside.

She said the basement is finished with a full kitchen, and she has run a day care there for 17 years.

(Steven Martens contributed to this story.)


EARLIER STORY

Times staff at 4:15 p.m.

Water gushing from a water main break flowed into a nearby manhole and entered sewer lines in a Bettendorf neighborhood this afternoon, according to City Administrator Decker Ploehn.

The resulting surge in the sewer lines caused sewage backups that flooded basements of 28 homes, he said. Residents of those homes will get one night free stay at The Lodge in Bettendorf.


EARLIER STORY

Water main break floods Bettendorf home day care

Brian Wellner at 2:45 p.m.

Jana Michaelis, who runs a day care in the basement of her Bettendorf home, figured something was wrong Thursday when a 3-year-old student told her the “potty” was broken.

“There’s something wrong with the potty. No, there’s something really wrong,” Michaelis recalled the child telling her.

Michaelis looked and said water was “gushing” out of her basement toilet. She ran upstairs and saw water pouring onto the street from an underground pipe.

Crews were busy about 1 p.m. repairing a broken water main at the corner of Hillside Drive and Woodlawn Lane.

The break forced nearby Grant Wood Elementary School to dismiss students early. Bettendorf Community School District spokeswoman Celeste Miller said water service at the school had to be shut off because of the water main break.

Michaelis’ house is next to the school on Hillside and took about four inches of water in the basement.

“It’s still sitting there, at least about three if not four inches in some spots,” Michaelis said.

As crews worked outside, Michaelis kept busy crisscrossing the soaked basement floor collecting anything that might still be salvageable. Many toys, clothes, books and shoes were pitched outside. She realized an old photo album had been damaged.

She said she had six children in her day care when the flooding occurred. Their shoes remained on the basement floor.

She estimates about $10,000 in damage to the contents in her basement. She has run a day care there for 17 years, she said.

The families affected by the floods will get to stay for free at The Lodge tonight.


EARLIER STORY

Grant Wood Elementary dismissing early after water main break

Staff report at 12:53 p.m.

Grant Wood Elementary School in Bettendorf will dismiss students at 1 p.m. today because of a water main break in the area.

Water service at the school had to be shut off because of the water main break in the neighborhood, according to a news release from the Bettendorf Community School District.

Students will be held at the school until a parent can be contacted.

Parents with students who ride the bus are asked to contact the school office at 563-359-8277 to confirm that their child is to be placed on the bus.

(8) comments

Atlas

Who's liability is this? The city of Bettendorf? Seems to me that is is. The sewer system couldn't handle the surge. Not unlike a storm surge. Home owners must review their coverage from time to time, not when it's too late.

Klaatu
Klaatu

I can see a protracted legal battle to parse the liability.

Contemptio

This is why you have "sewer back up / sump pump" failure endorsement on your insurance policy. Hope all had it.

Jack S

Good point Contemptio.................just checked my coverage.........we have it .....

TruthOnlyBeTold
TruthOnlyBeTold

I'd say those folks are experiencing a Carnival Cruise Line moment...

thelastoftherationals

At The Lodge? I'd rather sleep in sewer water.

Klaatu
Klaatu

One night? Sure, that ought to be plenty of time to pump out the sewage and get rid of the smell, right?

gochiefs

I think the offer is quite generous as it is not the city's responsibility...I daresay none of the other area cities would do the same.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.