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Residents stuck in sewer water for over a year

Update: October, 23/2014 - 08:50
A woman takes her bicycle over sewer water and waste in 146 Quan Thanh Street in Ha Noi. Residents have lived with sewer water, waste and mosquitoes for a year. — VNS Photo Viet Thanh

HA NOI (VNS) — The residents of building 146 Quan Thanh have lived "knee-deep in sewer water and waste," as one put it, for more than a year since a blockage stopped their pipe from draining into the city sewer system.

The leakage began on July 26, 2013 when more than 60 residents of 12 households in the building found their common courtyard covered in dark, stinky water from the sewer. They ordered a plumbing machine to drain the waste, but the next day the common area flooded all over again. Finally, plumbers found clothes and other objects in the building's sewer pipe completely blocking water flow to the city's sewer network.

Local authorities still have not solved the problem.

Nguyen Dinh Tuan, a representative from the building, said water from the blocked sewer rose as high as 40 cm. They had to build a pathway out of boards and bricks to get in and out.

"Our life has been turned upside-down," Tuan said. "It is hard to believe that in the heart of Ha Noi, in this day and age, that we have to live like this."

The courtyard, where residents used to wash and dry their clothes, had been submerged in sewage water. Garbage floated across the surface and a strong odor permeated the air.

"I cannot even remember how many times kids and the elderly fell in that filthy water in the last fourteen months," said Nguyen Thi Tu, an 86-year-old resident. "We've had to live with mosquitoes, insects and diseases. Even food lost its taste, because of the unbearable stench."

Tu said she could never have imagined she would have to suffer in such unsanitary living conditions in her later years.

Bui Thanh Xuan, Vice Chairman of the Quan Thanh Ward People's Committee, said local authorities have been trying to solve the problem since it started, but have experienced difficulties dealing with the building's neighbor.

The residents believed the sewer pipe that ran under 5 Dang Dung, a residence owned by Nguyen Xuan Minh, was causing the blockage.

The local People's Committee summoned Minh to many meetings with residents of the flooded building, but he never came. He refused to let the city dig under his house.

Minh even hired disabled veterans to block the local People's Committee from digging under the pavement in front of his residence to find out why the sewer was blocked.

Hien, also a resident of No 5 Dang Dung, said there are four buildings on the street that share the same address.

He discredited the possibility there was a pipe running under his house, saying he didn't understand why residents of 146 Quan Thanh were certain of that.

"Who is going to be responsible for all the damage if I let them dig under my house?" Hien said.

None of the 5 Dang Dung residents were willing to have the foundation of their houses inspected without a blueprint of the building to prove that a pipe actually runs under the houses.

While waiting for Minh to decide to sit down and negotiate, the local People's Committee had to buy two water pumps to temporarily deal with the flooding. The pumps have since broken down.

Though Minh would not co-operate, Xuan said local authorities were also at fault, for failing to find a satisfactory solution for all involved.

He also said the city lacks legal procedures to deal with this kind of situation, where negotiations between residents failed to settle the dispute.

The Ba Dinh People's Committee sent two letters to local authorities in July 2013 and May 2014, urging them to address the issue as soon as possible. But still no solution has been found. — VNS

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