Ryan Hayhurst’s office at Marine Drive apartments has had sewer overflows before, but nothing like the one last week that left an employee sick.
On March 1, the carpeted floor flooded with an inch deep of sewer water, toilet paper and whatever else his upstairs neighbors flushed down their toilets. of his office at the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority development
The “smell was overwhelming,” said Hayhurst, who is the president of Buffalo Harbor Cruises on the bottom floor of 79 Marine Dr.
“My marketing manager walked in and she immediately walked out and threw up, and that’s not a joke,” he said.
This was the fourth time in less than a month that sewage has leaked inside the business. Each time, BMHA crews would do a “Band-aid” repair that never addressed the root of the leak, Hayhurst said.
“This time was worse than ever, and when I say flood it was complete sewage from the entire building,” he said. “This time was pretty incredible.”
BMHA sent a crew to clean up the mess and pumped the raw sewage onto the grass and sidewalks outdoors as people walked by. A separate cleaning crew deodorized the office and cleaned the carpet.
“They said they fixed it, but they say that every time,” Hayhurst said.
The very next day, the office flooded again.
In February, News 4 Investigates highlighted deplorable conditions in BMHA developments, such as mold and infestations of bed bugs and roaches.
BMHA’s long standing failures with management, maintenance and finances have resulted in it being on HUD’s “troubled” list of developments, according to a September 2018 assessment by the federal agency. The poor assessment results makes BMHA one of the worst housing authorities in the country.
If matters do not improve, the federal government could allow for a takeover of the agency.
Sewer overflows are also a constant problem at some BMHA properties.
Federal inspection reports in 2018 found either sewage leaks or sewer odors at several BMHA developments, including Kenfield Homes, Shaffer Village and Holling Homes.
Gillian Brown, BMHA’s executive director, said overflows are usually caused by sewer lines being jammed or the age of the sewer infrastructure in some of the pre- and post-war developments. As a result, a lot of BMHA developments are nearing the end “of their useful lives,” Brown said.
But upgrading the sewer infrastructure is “not on the books.”
“Look at Syracuse, look at Albany, look at Rochester,” Brown said during an interview last month with News 4 Investigates.
“The one thing that should jump out at you is the age of the housing. Those housing authorities by and large got rid of their housing that was built in the late 30s and 40s. We did not. We have housing that was built a really long time ago.”
Hayhurst said he could have lost his business if the sewer overflows had happened during the busy summer months when he’s running seven days a week.
Attempts to find other office space close to Lake Erie have not been successful.
“These buildings are so decrepit and every plumber that comes in, time and time again, every single year, they say it should just be knocked down and redone because the plumbing situation underneath is just gone, it just doesn’t exist,” Hayhurst said.
“We go back in, it’s dry, it smells nice, but there’s still infection in there, it’s still bad.”
Brown said Tuesday that the BMHA is in the process of replacing sections of sewer line at 79 Marine Dr. after determining that “the pipes were broken and needed replacement, due to age.” Hayhurst is making a list of damages for reimbursement and the carpets inside his office will be replaced with commercial floor tiles.
But Hayhurst said he feels bad for the housing tenants, who call Marine Towers home.
His message for BMHA is a simple one: “Get somebody in to do it right. Every time they put a Band-aid on the problem, they are not fixing it.”