The owner of a Mount Airy apartment complex is suing the town, claiming that its failure to maintain a storm-water retention pond at the complex resulted in sewer line erosion and caused raw sewage to back up into some apartments.
The suit was filed last week in Carroll County Circuit Court by James E. Abell of Hyattsville, owner of the Mount Airy Apartments at Route 27 and Watersville Road. He is seeking $21,128 in damages to cover repairs to the sewer lines, apartment damage and lost rents.
Friendly Acres Community Association is named as a co-defendant.
The suit contends that the source of the erosion is a playground built by the association on the Friendly Acres property, a town house community uphill from the Mount Airy Apartments.
The playground was built on a site designated for a storm-water retention pond, and it prevented water from collecting there, the suit says. The water ran downhill toward the Mount Airy Apartments, said Vincent Abell, the apartment manager and the owner's brother.
The water eroded soil that supported the sewer lines, causing them to collapse, and raw sewage backed up in several apartments, James Abell said in the suit.
"All the water would race onto my property, rather than hit the pond to slow it down," he said.
Mr. Abell said he was forced to hire a septic service to excavate and replace the fallen sewer lines. Since then, there have been no sewage backups at the apartments, the suit says.
The suit claims that Mount Airy is liable for damages to the apartments because town officials were responsible for maintenance of the storm-water management pond in Friendly Acres. Mr. Abell said the final plat for the Friendly Acres subdivision indicates that the town is responsible for storm drainage structures in the townhouse community.
For two years, Mr. Abell said, he has had discussions with town officials about the drainage in an attempt to resolve it without suing for damages.
DeLaine Hobbs, Mount Airy Town Council president and chairman of the town's water and sewer committee, and Charles O. Fisher Sr., the town's attorney, declined to comment on the suit. They said they haven't been served with copies of it.
An investigation by State Farm, the Friendly Acres Community Association's insurance carrier, determined that the town is responsible for maintenance of the storm-water facility, said Leanore Gallin, a State Farm claim superintendent in Columbia.
"It was clear who's responsible here," Ms. Gallin said.
State Farm became involved after the town turned the matter over to its insurance carrier, Local Government Insurance Trust, Ms. Gallin said. The town's insurance company contacted State Farm about the matter, she said.
The playground equipment on the Friendly Acres property has been removed, and the site is surrounded by a fence topped with barbed wire.
The pond drainage pipe has been capped to slow the flow of water toward the Mount Airy Apartments property.