Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Not Again

Sigh. If ever there was an example of crumbling infrastructure, I think it might be our street.

To simplify, maybe over-simplify, when looking for a home, we did an analysis of buy new versus buy old. We automatically excluded vast numbers of old and new construction because I need an easily accessible, one floor living home. We factored in SP's commute time and put a distance limit on areas in which we would look. We factored in that I would be home alone all day, and if I suddenly needed help, where were the locations of the friends most likely to be able to help me? We talked about how much space we wanted, how much work/updating we were willing to do, etc. We talked about proximity to shopping, to the city, etc. We considered taxes, both city versus county and then county versus county.

But what we did not consider, what never even occurred to me, not even in the way far back dark recesses of my brain, was to consider infrastructure. Gas lines. Water lines. Sewer lines. Electric lines. It never occurred to me to think that if I bought a 60+ year old house, the water lines were likely to be 60+ years old. Old lines = breaks.

We have experienced 5 water main breaks in the 4 years we have lived here. Three of them were one house down at the intersection with another street. Two involved our property.

The first was in May 2009.

The second one you might remember my post from December 2010 when we had a river flowing through the front yard and the front corner of our yard was dug up. We were very lucky the river of water missed the house.

Three days later, there was a break one house down. Break #3. Same place as in May 2009.

Then last week on Wednesday, around 9:30 pm, we discovered we had no water. SP went outside and sure enough, there was a break one house down from us. The same spot as 2 previous breaks. The 4th break total.

Then, this past Sunday morning around 11 am as we were making potato salad, SP looked out the kitchen window as he rinsed celery and he said,"Hmmm, Yum Yum, the water pressure just dropped and we have a river flowing down our driveway." So we went to the front window and discovered that there was yet another water main break - under our driveway. It buckled the driveway. Water was pouring down.
So many thoughts ran through my head simultaneously. Some not fit for posting in a blog post. Mostly evil vitriol directed at our water company for being so gosh darn negligent in maintaining a line that just broke for the 5th time. The 4th time had been just over 3 days before!
Many thoughts were being angry that we hadn't yet showered and now wouldn't have water for at least 5-6 hours and wouldn't be able to flush the toilets. And many, many more were utter fear of our home flooding or the foundation being damaged or more driveway slabs being shifted/damaged. We called the water people right away. It took them 40 minutes to shut it down. We called three times total and had several people knock on our door to see if we were aware of the river in our driveway.

I will say this: the water worker who spoke with SP right after shutting off the water was very nice. He asked if we had any water get in the house before heading out to assemble the repair crew. The entire crew finally assembled and started removing the concrete slab around 1 pm and we had water again by 5 pm.
But. But. This is the second time in just over 1.5 years that our property has been directly affected. While they did fill in and and seed the grassy area they dug up in December 2010, that grass has yet to develop into anything other than an ugly, brown spot. And while they did fill in our driveway with dirt and gravel, this is what we now have until they get around to pouring a new slab:
A gravel pit. Through which the wheelchair cannot be pushed.

The yard on the side was damaged because huge equipment had to park on top of the water soaked  yard:
 Stones were left in the yard, which makes mowing dangerous:
 A river of mud and stones and twigs flowed down our driveway and left behind a huge mess:
 The back of our driveway:
I get that stuff happens. I get that I am fortunate to live in a developed country in a house with indoor plumbing and running water and reliable electricity and central heat and central air. But. I pay my utilities on time and in full every month. Isn't there some sort of obligation for utilities to maintain their equipment & systems? To make sure they don't destroy someone's home/property? What if we had not been so lucky with the direction of water flow? That's two times now that we have been lucky - how long can you be lucky? Isn't 2 breaks in the same spot and 3 breaks in the same spot one house down an indication that something needs to be done beyond a simple repair?

Who pays to fix my house if it is damaged? What about mold issues?

I need to stop before I get even more stressed out. I am not sure what, if any, action we will take beyond the phone call we already made which resulted in a bunch of canned, stock bureaucratic **ll**it answers to our queries about the obviously crappy line that keeps breaking.

And sadly, aside form not being able to tell us when they would pour a new concrete slab, they didn't even have the correct house number on their list of work that needs to be done.

I love, love, love our home, and we've put a lot of work into upgrading it and making it ours. I really don't want to move, and yet, I also can't live in fear of my home flooding because the water lines are 60 years old and eroding and the water company won't replace them. I am afraid for us to go away on vacation because what if there's a break while we are away? What if the house floods while we are away?

Of course not having water form 11 am until 5 pm last Sunday meant that we didn't get any of the painting done, we didn't get to mow or weed, we didn't get laundry done. It was a wasted day. Sure, it was nice to be forced to lounge on the couch and watch movies, but...

So you know what we'll be doing over the long holiday break (SP gets 3 days off). In addition to the painting and mowing and laundry, we'll be shoveling gravel out of the yard and sweeping dirt and stones and other debris off the driveway.

And maybe we'll surround the house with a wall of sandbags?!!


  1. Who is your water company? I'm curious.

    Regarding the stone--ask them to come back and put "millings" or "2A to dust" and pack it which should help the patch and wheelchair issue.

    If it keeps breaking like that they are probably looking at a whole line replacement but it really depends on who the company is (RTMA? Penn American?)

    The concrete should be fixed by the end of the year (season ends usually around October) or when they have the crews come in to do the larger breaks. Generally they will get a "list" together to get the best price.

    Regarding losing water, they should MOST DEFINATELY hook you up with temporary water if you are the only house missing. That's pretty easy for them and standard.

    Do you have insurance on your water line?

  2. One other thought. Tell them to hot patch it. That's better than the millings or 2a to dust. sorry

  3. Hi Whitney: Our water is MATR (Municipal Authority of Twp Rbnsn). I don't think we are the only house missing water - I know for sure at least one neighbor also lost water during 2 of the breaks. It's always the main line that breaks and they ran the main line under the yards/driveways on our side of the road, not under the road, but for one break they had to dig through the road as well as our yard. We are considering buying the ins for the line portion to our house from the main b/c it's pretty clear that something isn't right. Thanks for the info!