We Can’t Live with the Damp, the Smell, the Dirt.
[February 5, 2007]
Residents of 64 Oganov Street, an apartment building in Yerevan's Malatia-Sebastia district, have been living in appalling conditions since last December 30 th , when their sewage pipes began to freeze.
“The sewage pipes froze on December 30 for the first time. We opened them ourselves, first with help from some specialists from the building management. Sewage was overflowing into the apartment on the fifth floor, and it reached the seventh floor and started to fill the sixth floor, until we managed to open the pipe. The pipes froze again three days later; we got them open again. They froze again, and we opened them. The sewage had reached the 14 th floor, the top floor, when the pipes froze for the fourth time, and we opened them ourselves again,” said resident Dariko Sahakyan. “But we asked the management to open the pipes again when they got stopped up for the fifth time. They told us that they had only two employees for twenty buildings and asked us to leave them alone and take care of it ourselves. I told them I was going to file a complaint against them and they said I could complain to whoever I wanted.”
After that, Sahakyan's wife continued the story, she called the Department of Residential Buildings of the Malatia-Sebastia municipality. They promised to deal with the problem. When she called the next day, they informed her that the president of the Lori Apartment Complex, Edik Sahakyan, had requested a substantial sum of money to take care of the problem and that the municipality was trying to come up with it. Thereafter, the municipality stopped taking her calls.
“I notified the municipality. They told me that would register my call and send a crew out. We already opened the pipes ourselves several days ago, but the crew still hasn't arrived, ” Dariko said.
The wastewater system has been working, with some deficiencies, as of January 25. The building's one-room apartments are in the worst state. Armen Agajanyan, his wife and two children have had to move out of their apartment for a while.
“The sewage rose up to the top of the toilet bowl and then overflowed onto the floor. I had to plug it up,” Armen said. He and his family are planning to return soon, as they are expecting a baby.
“The aluminum insulation was installed just for the sake of appearances. Water flows through the foil and seeps into the wall. They wrapped the new insulation on top of the old torn stuff, “ complained Armen's mother Roza Avetyan, who also lives on the fifth floor. “ ‘Why you don't remove old insulation and then put on the new?' I asked them. They said ‘It's better this way.” They just wanted to get it done quickly and go.”
“‘We don't have time, go and deal with it yourself,' the building management says. But how can you do it yourself, with your own strength? The pipes are 24 years old, worn-out, and cracked. They stay like that all summer, they leak and nobody takes care of them, and then winter comes and the problems come crashing onto our heads,” Roza continued. “They said that we should repair the pipes at our own expense since the building is privatized. But we know the central pipes are the responsibility of the management. We make payments to the building management, but for what? My son paid 7,500 drams to clean the sewage pipes in his one-room apartment.”
When we spoke to Edik Sahakyan, the president of the Lori Apartment Complex, he complained about the residents, saying that they make demands without fulfilling their responsibilities. That is, they don't pay the service fee of ten drams per square meter, which creates financial problems for the company.
“They ask us to make a service payment. But why should I make the payment if they don't do their job in the summer?” Roza Avetisyan retorts, adding, “We were making the payments, but now we can't since everybody's out of work. Let them come and do their job in the summer. Then we will be happy to pay.”
Like other residents, Hovsep Voskerchyan, who owns a one-room apartment on the sixth floor, had to move out temporarily.
“We used to make a fire around the pipe every day to thaw it. But it froze and leaked every night. Finally the pipe froze along its entire length and broke, and the water overflowed onto the floor of the apartment on the top floor. It soaked though the ceiling. We changed the pipe, but it froze the next day, the sewage flowed into our apartment through the kitchen and corridor and covered half the living room,” Hovsep Voskerchyan said, showing us the damage floor, walls and ceiling of his apartment.
The ceiling of the Voskerchyan's family neighbor Emma's two-bedroom apartment was so drenched that even the glass chandelier was filled with water.
“Since we had a one-year-old baby, we couldn't live in that condition. Now we are living at our relatives'” Voskerchyan said. “All the wiring inside the walls is damaged; there is a terrible damp smell. We can't live in this condition, in such dirt and smell. The management said it didn't have enough staff, and all the buildings have the same problem.”
Most of the buildings in the complex are in the same state. The high-rise buildings near 64 Oganov have equally poor sanitation.
The garbage chutes, too, are in appalling condition. As the sewage overflows into the apartments, the garbage accumulates in the chutes and forms piles at the entrances.
“The people used the garbage chutes those days when the sewers were blocked—they wrapped it up and threw it down,” Dariko explained. “The bottom section of the garbage chute is frozen. The garbage men came twice, but they didn't take out the garbage. I called them to take the garbage three days ago. Someone, maybe the dispatcher, said it wasn't their job. Then I asked the management. They called the sanitation company in my presence. They promised to come and take the garbage. That was the day before yesterday, on January 23rd. Today I asked the building management again. They called them again. I warned them that I would go to the Sanitary Inspection if they didn't come.”
The garbage men finally came back to 64 Oganov Street on January 26.Vahe Sarukhanyan