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Milwaukee flood damage trial begins

Testimony is expected to continue Wednesday in a trial involving hundreds of Milwaukee residents who are suing the city for alleged negligence because their basements flooded with raw sewage during heavy rain in 2008.

The trial is expected to last until Sept. 27, according to court records.

More than 200 residents of the city’s Lincoln Creek and Lincoln Park neighborhoods filed suit against the city in 2009 because of damage their homes sustained during flooding. The city estimated there was about $23 million in damage after more than 7 inches of rain fell June 7 and June 8, 2008.

According to court filings, affected residents “saw their basements fill up with as much as three feet of raw sewage, human excrement and every other type of waste flushed down a toilet or drain” as a result of the flooding.

A jury was picked Monday and opening statements were given Tuesday in Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Christopher Foley’s courtroom.

The original lawsuit listed about 250 residents who made claims against the city, but about 50 of those were dismissed in the past four years. The remaining plaintiffs are seeking an unnamed amount of damages.

The plaintiffs allege the city did not maintain its sewer system and bypass pumps, which caused them to malfunction. More specifically, the lawsuit alleges the system’s flap gates, which close when there is a threat of raw sewage going into people’s basements, malfunctioned during the floods.

The city has denied the allegations in court filings.

In addition to the city, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, wastewater treatment company Veolia Water Milwaukee LLC and the company’s Delaware-based parent firm were named as defendants. The plaintiffs alleged MMSD and Veolia were negligent because they did not properly operate the system when they closed the Deep Tunnel, which collects raw sewage.

MMSD and Veolia settled out of court in June, MMSD spokesman Bill Graffin said. MMSD’s insurance company paid for the settlement, he said, but he could not immediately provide the settlement amount.

Veolia Water spokeswoman Joyce Harms did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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