A cleanup is underway in Biddeford after sewage rose about a foot high in some apartments. Credit: CBS 13

Twenty-one families were forced to relocate after downpours last week caused a sewage backup at a Biddeford apartment complex Wednesday.

The city saw 6 inches of rain in one hour last week, backing up sewage lines into the basement of the apartment building, city officials said.

“[I] opened the door, and my daughter’s toilet was literally cascading to the ceiling,” tenant Karen Giasson said. “She had over a foot of sewage in her home.”

Sewage lines backed up into the bedrooms and baths of all ground-floor apartments at 24 State St.

Tenant Alissa Lestage said the sewage destroyed everything in her basement.

“It smelled very vile,” Lestage said. “Like you could just drive up and get out of the car, and instantly smell the sewage.”

“Oh, it’s unbearable,” tenant Justin Gagne said.

The Gagnes got a foot of sewage in their apartment.

“Like a geyser out of my toilet,” Gagne said. “We lost everything on the first floor. Everything. And come to find out, we’re not covered on our renter’s insurance. None of us are.”

The city said water couldn’t drain fast enough during the storm, so it backed up into the next lowest point, the first floor of the apartments.

The sewer department is investigating to see what can be done.

“They’re actively looking into it to see what’s going on with the backup,” said Roby Fecteau, director of code enforcement. “There will be a camera in the line, smoke testing, ongoing stuff.”

The property owner put all the families at hotels while crews clean the mess and repair the damage.

“We still got some units that got a little debris, a little bit of moisture,” said Israel Abreu, who works for Roto-Rooter Plumbing & Drain Service. “So some are getting done quicker than others.”

“Yeah, at this point, that’s why we’re on site again here today. Try to get a better idea,” property manager Brendan Phelan said. “It’s just a matter of cranking out as many units as possible.”