PROVINCETOWN — Sean Martin's lower-level art studio in the West End was flooded with smelly sewer water during Provincetown's recent sewer emergency, leading to $15,000 in damage.
"We had 1 to 2 inches of water pouring from a backflow pipe into the room," said Martin, who lives at 10-13 West Vine St. and just recently built the studio for his partner who is a glass artist.
Provincetown's vacuum sewer system failed Aug. 11-12, forcing the town to shut down many restaurants on Commercial Street and ask residents to dramatically reduce water use.
There are approximately 356 connections on the vacuum sewer system, which is a subset of the 1,500 properties on the public sewer system. Another 1,500 properties in Provincetown are not on the public sewer system and instead use a site-specific system, such as septic systems.
Martin says ServePro came out three times to clean the water damage.
"They got all the water out and put in nine fans and a dehumidifier," he said. "They just came back last week to take up the flooring and sanitize everything. They took out the drywall, too. We still have blowers that are drying things."
The town Department of Public Works has heard from homeowners looking for help after the sewer incident.
"My message is to call your own insurance company and then they can contact our insurance company. That's my best advice," Sherry Prada, public works deputy director, said.
That number is 866-231-7512. The insurer is Sedgwick insurance company.
"I have given that number out to a few people," Prada said. "I haven't heard back from anybody, but people were happy that I gave it to them."
Martin says Sedgwick sent an adjuster to his property.
"They took a lot of pictures and measurements," he said. "They're still in the process of reviewing the claim."
He's also contacted his own insurance company, but he's worried that may have repercussions.
"My fear is that our homeowners' insurance could drop us or increase our premiums for years to come."
SBA loans possible for damage from sewer emergency
The town has emailed Small Business Administration worksheets to local business owners, encouraging them to submit them to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Association. If five businesses respond and report significant economic damage from the sewer emergency, the state agency can initiate its economic injury disaster program. If that happens, local businesses can apply for low-interest loans to recover losses.
As of Sept. 3, two businesses have submitted the worksheet, according to Town Manager Alex Morse.
"Businesses have 120 days to submit from the day of the disaster," said Erica Heidelberg, disaster recovery supervisor at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. That means until December.
"The sooner they get them in, the sooner we can turn on the program," she said.
Tips for filing insurance claims related to the sewer emergency
The Board of Health recently posted on Facebook several tips for filing insurance claims related to the sewer incident with personal insurance carriers. The tips include:
Review your insurance policy. It may specify steps that you need to take when an insurable loss occurs.
Contact your insurer as soon as possible. Your insurance professional will assist with responding to your loss and filing your claim. If there is physical damage, your insurer may send an adjuster to inspect the property.
Stay organized. Keep copies of all the documents you submit to your insurance company, as well as any paperwork your insurance company provides you. Record the names and phone numbers of everyone you are in contact with during the claims filing process.
Prepare an inventory to substantiate your loss, prepare an inventory of damaged or destroyed items and give a copy to your insurance company and/or adjuster along with copies of any receipts.
Provide proof of loss. You'll be asked to send a signed, sworn proof of loss containing the information requested to investigate the claim. This must be done within 60 days after the initial insurer request.
"Businesses have 120 days to submit from the day of the disaster."
disaster recovery supervisor at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency