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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Elderly resident endures 11-year nightmare of sewage woes and maggot infestations in Ealing home

Bottles of water are piled high in the corner of an Ealing Broadway flat’s open-plan kitchen as its elderly occupant fusses over cups of tea. She can’t use her taps because occasionally water flows from them with a slimy consistency.

Eunice Gyimah has been living life through a plastic bottle for years now, with the plumbing situation turning her kitchen from a safe place for food preparation into a spot that must be cleaned with regular near-paranoid precision. From other people’s poo appearing in her toilet to maggots bubbling up from her kitchen sink plughole, Eunice says that the last 11 years of living in the flat has been a nightmare.

From the day that she moved in the 68-year-old said something was wrong. “I moved into this flat on the 22nd of October 2012,” Eunice recalls, “We went in the washroom and there was something big, massive [in the toilet] and I said to my children let’s go and complain because it’s a brand new flat, the whole building was built in 2012.”

“It wouldn’t flush so my son had to get a bucket, put on gloves, get a stick and break it up. I was wondering if the housing officer didn’t notice it.” Thinking that the offending faecal matter might have just been a reckless builder or a negligent housing officer that had been caught short Eunice initially didn’t think much of it.

Eunice poses for photos in her flat in Ealing, west London, Britain, 09 January 2024. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

However, since the first-day discovery, the mother was regularly finding other people’s waste, including poo, appearing in her toilet. Despite complaints and multiple investigations by the housing authority including the use of camera equipment to inspect pipes, Eunice says that her toilet still gets filled with ‘debris’ although the problem is less severe and persistent – 11 years after she first raised it as an issue.

With her toilet producing all sorts of disgusting sights and smells Eunice became increasingly suspicious of other aspects of her plumbing. It wasn’t long before she noticed that there was also something not right with water coming from her taps.

She told Local Democracy Reporting Services: “Then my water started smelling whenever I got some water [from the taps]. It was smelling when I left it, then it gets slimy.” Eunice says that the slime instantly put her off drinking or cooking with it leading to her beginning to use bottled water instead.

However, the worst was yet to come for the Ealing resident. It started in September last year with reports from other people living in the building that maggots had bubbled up from their sink plug hole and been spewed out across their kitchen, and by extension, living room floor.

Eunice first heard that someone on the floor below had had that issue, but never expected that she might also end up having the larvae crawling around her own kitchen. However just a few days after the housing association, formerly Catalyst now Peabody, cleaned up her neighbour’s flat, Eunice had her own infestation.

She said: “I was coming from shopping, I walked in, and there were maggots so I looked for maggots. They were coming from the sink, dropping on the floor. And is something that I had never seen. I started crying, screaming. Then I mustered the focus got the camera and took a few shots. [Maggots would emerge] for over a week. Every day.”

Eunice poses for photos in her flat in Ealing, west London, Britain, 09 January 2024. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

The incident affected the 68-year-old so badly that she says she didn’t feel comfortable sleeping in the house, pouring bleach down her drain and leaving the house, hoping in the morning the maggots would be gone. “I’ll go and sleep at cousin’s or my children’s and come back. They are still there. So my GP told me to leave this flat for a while because it was doing my head in. So I went to put to go on holiday just to clear my head when I came back. The flat was full of flies. They had hatched into flies, so they were hiding underneath the floorboards.”

It took Eunice weeks to get the situation under control and she says she now pours at least two full bottles of bleach down the sink every week to ensure the maggots don’t return. The horrific scene has left the elderly woman, who lives on her own, extremely distressed with issues such as broken bathroom lights, jammed windows and putrid smell coming from the pipes stacking up to make her house almost unlivable.

Even after the maggots went away Eunice says the smell in the flat gets so bad at times that she has spent almost more time sleeping at friends’ or family’s places than in her own home over the past 11 years. She burns incense every day to cover the smell but says sometimes the stench still causes her to become dizzy.

She has also stopped using the shower in the flat after she began suffering negative side effects. Despite suffering from unknown skin irritation for the past decade Eunice says it wasn’t until August 22 last year, that she finally discovered the culprit after an inspection of her pipes revealed they needed to be descaled.

“I would go to my GP because I was itching excessively. My GP would ask have you used a different shower gel, I said no. Because I wasn’t drinking the water the blood testing didn’t show anything but all my skin was in a rash.”

More than the effect that the water was having on her skin, Eunice says it was causing other issues. “I was having an infection as well that the doctors did not understand. So when I stopped I was having those blocks nose bleed the toxins that I was breathing, nosebleed nose block. Dizziness, so when I stopped it came down.”

Eunice poses for photos in her flat in Ealing, west London, Britain, 09 January 2024. Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Her prohibition of showering in the flat has made life even harder for Eunice, who had already sworn off using her taps for drinking or cooking. Her bottled water usage has skyrocketed which she estimates costs her more than £40 extra a week on top of what she pays in water bills – not a small amount considering Eunice is a normal pensioner in social housing.

She told LDRS how she boils bottled water in a kettle and pours it into a plastic basin which she then uses to give herself a sponge bath, often in darkness due to the electrics of her bathroom light being faulty. She says she has reported all the issues to her landlord with no action being taken for several months.

“I’ve called about 10 times. My bathroom has no windows, so haven’t had any lights. I use my phone [light] to shower [with a sponge], but I can’t shower. I haven’t showered in this flat since 22 of August.” To get a proper shower she goes elsewhere including her son’s which is in Twickenham.

“Sometimes I go by Uber, if I don’t feel [travelling by public transport] because every day is a pain day for me. Every day is not good for me, the stress, the anxiety. And as I go by Uber or go by train, it will take about an hour and a half.” The three-hour round commute for the simplest of dignities appears to have hit the woman, who suffers from a number of underlying health conditions extremely hard.

She has described how the situation has led to despair. Eunice describes sitting in her living room and crying every day, sometimes the stench in the flat is so bad she has to wear a mask.

When she first noticed issues with her plumbing, she was in her 50s, now she is almost 70 and she still hasn’t been given a resolution. Her home is littered with holes in walls in various rooms where the landlord has conducted inspection after inspection but seemingly with very little actual progress.

Eunice has been counting the days and weeks since the last inspection discovered the issues with her shower and even longer since she reported her light. However, she says nothing has been done.

“It’s been 20 weeks, they still haven’t come to do anything.”

“So I’m sitting here every day crying I can’t have my grandchildren sleeping here anymore.”

A spokesperson for Peabody said: “We’re really sorry for how long it’s taken to complete the repairs and we’ll be finishing the work next week. We’ve checked the water supply which is safe. We’ll continue to support Eunice and find out what has gone wrong here to stop it happening again.”

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