FOX59 gets sewage refund for veteran using bucket instead of toilet

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HENRY COUNTY, Ind. - FOX59 is getting results for a 98-year-old disabled veteran having to go to unthinkable lengths to use the bathroom and paying for sewage services even when he's not receiving them.

Every time it rains hard at Will Suratt's home in Sulphur Springs, his toilet stops flushing. So Suratt has to use a bag in a bucket and then dump it out behind his home.

"There ain't no other way to do it," he said. "Makes you feel bad."

Turns out, it's been a problem for years and has also been affecting some other residents. The area's waste management company is working on a long-term solution: a $4.5 million dollar project that will replace the current outdated sewer system.

It'll be years before that's complete.

Suratt and his family know this won't be an overnight fix, so they asked for some help in the meantime. Suratt pays about $50 a month for sewage service so his children asked the utility for a refund for the days he doesn't have service. Sometimes six days in a row if there are heavy rains.

They were told no, and told if they don't pay the bills in full, they would put a lien on his house.

FOX59's Aishah Hasnie went to the waste company's offices to find out why.

"I want to do something for Mr. Suratt. I really wanna do something for him," said Betty Gipe, the Board President for Summit Springs Regional Waste District.

However, Gipe said she could get in trouble with the State Board of Accounts if she gave Suratt a refund.

"I do not have anything that tells me that I can give a credit to anyone who is out of service for sewer."

FOX59 asked Gipe if she'd tried calling the SBA to ask and she replied no.

So Hasnie called for Gipe and found out that the SBA would make an exception for Suratt. They even offered to walk Gipe through the process to ensure she doesn't face any problems during an audit.

While his refund is in the works, Suratt hopes the bigger problem gets fixed soon too.

"Well, my age, I don't get around too good," he said. "We just need it fixed, you know."

FOX59 also found out the utility is working on a short-term solution: an emergency overflow lift station that would re-direct the waste into a holding lagoon. They hope to get funding for that project by next month and have it complete by this winter.

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