March 29, 1995 in City

Woman Living In Filth Gets A Reprieve But If Cleanup Isn’t Completed, The City Will Demolish The House

By The Spokesman-Review
 

A Spokane woman whose house is so filthy it makes garbage workers sick will get more time to clean up the place.

Spokane housing officials have tried since 1976 to get Kathleen Henry to clean up the house at 1111 W. Augusta, where garbage is stacked from floor to ceiling and animal feces coat the floors in some rooms.

Earlier this month, two garbage collectors became ill while loading garbage from the house. Two other men who say they tried to help clean the place say the house made them ill as well.

The 1906 house was condemned for the second time in October, and city officials told Henry they would demolish it unless she cleaned it up. Since then, she has thrown out about two Dumpster loads of garbage, which isn’t nearly enough, said members of the Spokane Housing Appeals Board, who met with Henry’s attorney Tuesday.

The board voted 4-2 to give Henry until April 15 to clean up the front porch and second floor. She must remove garbage from the entire house by May 8 and submit a plan for fixing the roof and making other repairs by May 22.

The city will demolish the house if she misses any of the deadlines, said board member Bill Fix.

Henry could not be located for comment, and her attorney did not return phone messages.

City solid waste officials say they don’t know what was in the trash that made two garbage workers feel sick to their stomachs and dizzy on March 17. Firefighters wearing respirators finished cleaning up the garbage that Henry had asked the city to collect that day.

“The trash itself was very rancidsmelling,” said Roger Flint, foreman of the city’s landfill transfer station, who sorted through the garbage after it had been delivered.

“I couldn’t find any herbicides or pesticides or chemical containers that you normally would expect to find” when a garbage worker becomes ill.

Mathew Lane and Curt Leppert said they weren’t surprised workers would be sickened by garbage from the house. Leppert said he lived there six months last year in exchange for working on the house. Lane said he was hired by Henry to help clean it up, a job both since have decided is futile.

“The entire time I lived in the house, I was sick,” said Leppert. “I was always stuffed-up; I could never really breathe well. I was constantly coughing. I had sore throats.”

The symptoms went away, he said, when he moved out of the house.

Lane said he, too, often was ill while working in the house. He didn’t see a doctor, he said, because he doesn’t have health insurance.

Both men described seeing puppies and kittens born in the house only to die mysteriously. Lane said one sick puppy recovered when he took it home.

“They were getting all the food and water that they needed,” Lane said. “It was always respiratory (problems).”

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