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​Public Housing: Bridgetown tenants forced to live in unsanitary conditions for more than three years

Melissa PedeltyManjimup-Bridgetown Times
Mr Coates has been living in the house since 2019 when the issues first occurred.
Camera IconMr Coates has been living in the house since 2019 when the issues first occurred. Credit: Manjimup-Bridgetown Times

Bridgetown public housing tenants are demanding to be heard after suffering mentally and physically for more than three years because of an unsanitary living environment.

The residence has experienced sewage issues since 2019, resulting in daily overflows of human faeces and toilet paper from a backyard drain located less that one metre from a kitchen window.

The Department of Communities has authorised several interim fixes during the three-year period and intend to find a long-term solution to ground water and septic issues at the property but a definite timeline has not been identified.

Tenant Liam Coates — who has lived in Bridgetown for more than 20 years — said he and his housemates, who are all on pensions, were now left wondering how much longer they could live with the “horrific” smell.

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“It’s really impacting on our mental health severely, our medical conditions as well, it’s making us go backwards, not forwards,” he said.

“We’ve had times where we’ve had to evacuate the house but we’ve go nowhere to go.

“We can’t live like this any longer.”

Mr Coates — who is the main carer for his two housemates — said he had recently been contacted by his housing officers who will hold a meeting on February 15 regarding the issue, however he is not confident their resolution will be an immediate, long-term fix.

“They’re dragging their heels, it’s taking forever and a day,” he said.

“We’ve become left as unheard voices; we need our voice heard.”

Since moving into the property in 2019, Mr Coates and his housemates have been managing the smell and overflow on a daily basis, forced to use an excess amount of water and electricity in an attempt to wash away the overflow and keep the smell out of the house.

“Basically two days after moving in, that drain (behind the kitchen) was already overflowing and it rivers under the entire the house to the front veranda so it’s very hard to get fresh air in,” he said.

“It backs up in the winter, there’s so much water coming down the back from the run-off that the pump just can’t keep up and it will all just overflow.

“The smell is horrific, especially when it’s cold and you have the cold air rolling down the hill, it goes straight in the house through the back door and the windows.”

Mr Coates was hospitalised in August last year, which prompted $26,000 in works to the property after a letter was written by a doctor on his behalf. He said they had met four different plumbers over the years sent out by the Department’s maintenance company that have introduced several solutions, however the issues have persisted.

“The first set (leach drain) they put in, it busted open at the end and rivered down to where we used to have the chook pen, under the fence into our elderly neighbours garden,” he said.

“We’re sent on this merry-go-round that’s going nowhere.”

A Department of Communities spokesperson said it was currently working with its head contractor to find a long-term solution to ground water and septic issues at the property.

“Communities has current work orders in place and is liaising with the tenant to arrange access for works to occur with minimal disruption,” the spokesperson said.

“Communities acknowledges the ongoing maintenance works have impacted on the tenant’s living arrangements and is committed to rectifying these issues as soon as possible.”

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