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Apartment complex neighbors dealing with raw sewage overflow

Posted at 5:09 PM, Dec 26, 2019

PHOENIX — The sign that greets when you drive in to the Highland Park Apartments off 27th and Glendale Avenues in Phoenix reads, "We're better, come in to see why," but Apryl Gastelum says what she has seen after one month of living there is enough to have her wanting to move out immediately.

Her first night in her new apartment, Gastelum said she woke up to the sound of gushing water.

"The first night we woke up to our bedrooms covered with sewer and poopy water, it was literally gushing out like crazy," said Gastelum.

"I was really grossed out. The stench, I woke up and stepped in water. I was like what the heck, did the toilet overflow?" she added.

Since then Gastelum said the flooding has been a weekly occurrence in her apartment. It has destroyed her furniture, her bedding, and clothes and towels they've had to use to mop the floors.

"Maintenance told me the problem is underground. The sewer line, the trees and the roots grow into it, we just have to snake it every week," said Gastelum.

ABC15 asked her if maintenance has shown up to snake the toilets every week or offered to move them to another apartment until the fix is completed, but she said she had received little communication from management about the issue.

She spent Christmas eve dealing with the flooding and Gastelum said she was not the only one. Three of her neighbors had also experienced similar toilet overflows.

Chizanye Karuhiga who lived right next door invited ABC15 in to her apartment to show us the problems she was dealing with.

"When I flush the toilet the water comes up and fills into the bathtub, and it goes on the floor," said Karuhiga, but for this mother the bathroom flooding was not her primary concern.

She wanted to talk about the kitchen stove she said had not worked for at least the last two years.

"Look at this. These three burners over here they are not working. I have to cook food for all of us, all of my children and me on just this one small burner one at a time and it takes a very long time," said Karuhige.

ABC15 asked her if she had complained to management about this. She said she had, multiple times and they had said they would come out and fix it.

"I talked to the first manager, then I talked to the second manager, then I talked to the lady that is in there right now. They said they are going to fix it and I have been waiting for that," said Karuhige.

ABC15 asked her how long she had been waiting for.

"Two years. They have not changed my stove, no," added Karuhige.

ABC15 attempted to talk to someone inside the apartment complex leasing office. Although the sign on the door indicated they were open, and we observed a person inside the office, the door was locked and despite our knocking, no one came to the door.

ABC15 then reached out to a corporate office number provided to us by residents. A woman who answered the phone said she had sent out a group text to all managers about the sewer overflows, but no one had responded as they were on vacation. The woman said she could not answer our questions as she was just filling in for a regional manager who was also on vacation.

After leaving the complex, ABC15 was approached by another Highland Park Apartments resident who said her apartment was not "livable" and she was moving out that day.

"This is not acceptable. This is not a place that is livable at all, it is unacceptable," said Jamie Munson.

Munson added that she had repeatedly tried to contact management about a broken sink and bathtub over the last three months.

"Water was dripping from the sink. Recently my bathtub it went crazy, it broke they came out and said they couldn't fix it. We have the water turned off at main line downstairs," said Munson.

ABC15 asked her how she was bathing if her water was turned off at the main line.

"I've been going to a friend's for that," said Munson.

She added that some residents in the complex lived in Section 8 housing, and she questioned if that was why nobody cared to address the multiple issues residents there were dealing with.

"My message to management here? They need to wake up and do their job, and treat people like they're tenants here," said Munson.

Gastelum said she wanted management to reimburse her for her ruined furniture, bedding, and clothing. She paid about $882 in rent every month.

ABC15 has also reached out to the city to find out of if officials are aware of living conditions described by residents at the Highland Park Apartments. We will keep you updated when we hear back from management or city officials.