Home News Seniors begin returning to evacuated apartments after wastewater leak

Seniors begin returning to evacuated apartments after wastewater leak


OAKLEY — Seniors began moving back into Oak Grove Terrace late Tuesday after power was restored following a wastewater leak and emergency evacuation over the weekend, management said.

Oke Johnson, a spokesman for WinnResidential, which manages the senior apartments and the family units collectively called The Oaks, said eight residents were set to return Tuesday night and more were planning to do so on Wednesday.

“This morning, PG&E restored power to the community and we worked with city inspectors and officials to assess all building and life safety systems, including the elevator,” Oke told the City Council at its meeting Tuesday night. “It was determined that it was safe to turn the electricity back on in the building and allow residents to return.”

On Sunday morning, firefighters received a call that someone was stuck in the elevator at the Oak Grove Senior Terrace apartments at 67 Carol Lane. Upon arrival, rescuers discovered no one was stuck in the non-working elevator, but wastewater was leaking nearby.

“The clog in a line on the first floor caused water to back up and overflow into a vacant second-floor apartment located adjacent to the elevator shaft and above the elevator control room,” Johnson said.

“No water entered occupied apartments or common areas and the wastewater line was cleared on Sunday. All sewage lines in the building were hydro-jetted today (Tuesday).”

The city red-tagged the building, because the clogged wastewater line could have leaked into the electrical panel for the building’s elevator, Ed Cafasso, a property spokesperson, said in a statement. Residents from at least 36 units on Carol Lane were evacuated to three area hotels while those in five other units left to stay with families or friends.

Johnson told the council its contractor is “doing everything possible” to fix the elevator in the four-story senior building, but a part was still needed to make repairs, which they hoped could be done on Wednesday.

Johnson thanked Oakley Mayor Anissa Williams, Vice Mayor Shannon Shaw, and area hotel operators who provided rooms and accommodated pets on short notice, and the vendors who mobilized quickly to help as well as the affected residents “who, by and large, have maintained a positive and helpful attitude throughout this unfortunate situation.”

Barbara Bautista, who lives in a different senior building at the complex and was part of the city’s ad hoc committee to address issues at the complex, commended WinnCompanies for its response.

“It was full staff on board during the holiday weekend,” she said. “It was a terrible thing for seniors to be displaced like that, but things do happen.”

Even so, she requested that the garbage chutes – closed for months because of a buildup of filth and roaches – be reopened for residents’ convenience. Seniors can request staff to take their garbage out for them if they are unable; otherwise, they have to walk down to the first-floor garbage bins.

Bautista said that though maintenance and cleaning have improved since residents complained to the city, the onsite-staff is “rushing through things trying to get to the maintenance part. So the total cleaning isn’t quite at where it should be.”

Others complained there still wasn’t enough staff for the large affordable housing complex, and repairs could take as long as six months.

“I’m here to represent the little people that are at The Oaks apartments,” resident Raymond Duro said. “Essentially, what I see is that the people when you go down and you’re attempting to get help for a repair, it’s a hostile, confrontational environment that you experience.”

Other residents complained that there would be some emergency preparedness for residents should another emergency occur in the future.

The mayor acknowledged that the situation was “out of the ordinary.”

“Maybe the response was clunky, but who can really plan for this without an emergency plan?” she said. “So, I think I would just like to have some idea in the future should something like this happen and buildings need to be evacuated, can there be a clear-cut plan that the residents understand (what to do)?”

Johnson said he agreed.

“We think it opened our eyes, and we do this down in other parts of the state where there’s more earthquake activity,” he said.

Johnson said they will work to design an emergency action program for each building at The Oaks.

“We do have emergency plans in place, but in an emergency, unless you practice it, it comes across very clunky.”

“My thing is, this may not have been perfect, but we can learn from it and take from it,” Vice Mayor Shannon Shaw said.

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