June 13, 2013

Small leak turns into major disruption

PLATTSBURGH — It started with a small leak; it turned into a flood of damages, disappointments and uncertainty.

Debra Buell, an outspoken local advocate for the disabled who uses a wheelchair herself, suffered for more than two weeks as she watched her apartment and belongings endure severe damage from a leaky pipe. Then, she began a sometimes overwhelming process to find her way into a new future.

“I’ve got to say that mostly I still think I’m in a bit of shock,” Buell said of the initial leak, which was discovered May 20 and began a series of setbacks for the Plattsburgh resident. 

“The only way to cope is to just keep plugging away at what needs to be done. Only when it’s done will I probably be able to let my real feelings arise.” 


That first day, Buell and her aide moved her possessions in her one-room apartment away from the leak and then attempted to turn off a valve to stop the drip.

She called her landlady and next-door neighbor but still could not find a way to shut it off. The Department of Public Works was called to turn it off at the street, but water had already risen in the apartment to a level dangerously close to an electrical outlet.

A plumber eventually arrived and was able to replace the pipe, fitting and shutoff valve, but water covered 4 inches of the apartment floor.

The plumber advised Buell’s landlady to professionally remove the water and conduct mold mitigation.

“I spent the night in the apartment thinking tomorrow the landlady would have someone come in to get rid of the water and clean,” she said.

But there was no success in getting the apartment professionally cleaned, and Buell soon learned from the City of Plattsburgh building inspector that the unit had been deemed uninhabitable and that she had to find a new place to live.

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