The Saga of the Water Leak

Categories Random Thoughts

Note: This is totally a brain-dump version of this story, as I want to get down the details before I forget them. So, probably not my best writing! You’ve been warned.

Last week, I was in California, meeting my new baby niece. I had left my car at my parents’ house while I was gone, and they were kind enough to drop it off for me at my house on the day I was returning (Friday, June 9th).

After I got home (around 10:30pm), I saw a text from my mom that mentioned that when they dropped the car off, they noticed that my gravel/dirt driveway and yard was a little wet. It had rained pretty steadily the week previously, but had been dry the whole week I was gone. My mom said that I either (1) needed more gravel to give my yard a little better drainage, or (2) had a water leak.

I mentioned it to my boyfriend, who said he’d take a closer look the next time he was at my house.

Fast forward to the following Tuesday, June 13th, around 11:00am. Blake was at my house, working on some stuff. I had hopped in the shower to get ready for the day (I’m lazy and don’t like to do it first thing in the morning). He yelled into the bathroom that I needed to come outside when I got out, because he had bad news – it wasn’t poor drainage in my yard.

When I took a look, you could see a small puddle maybe an inch or two from the side of my house with moving water. As we investigated more, it looked like there was a pipe that was pushing out water. We called a friend who is a plumber, who got there in just a few minutes.

He took a look and dug out some old concrete around the pipe. At this point, the water went from a relatively small trickle to a steady stream – not quite gushing water, but not trickling anymore.

The plumber took a look and tried several things. We shut off my water line and ran the faucets until the water ran out… the leaky pipe was still pushing out water. We looked for another shut off valve. He noted that it wasn’t hot, so it wasn’t my water heater.

At this point, he called the owner of his company, who explained that it might be an old pipe from a neighbor’s water line. Apparently, it was relatively common when my house was built (1938) to share a water line with the neighboring house if one family owned both houses. The concept was that when one of the houses was sold, the line was capped and my land got its own water line.

So, the semi-good news was that this leak wasn’t driving up my water bill – just a neighbor’s (which, to be clear, I felt bad about, but also relieved).

At this point, we realized that there would have been a cap to this pipe, but it somehow came off. So our next mission was to just cap the pipe.

The plumber first had to find out what type of cap to get, as apparently the pipe was really thin PVC, which he wasn’t super familiar with. After a failed attempt with one type of cap, he came back with something that would cap the pipe. Finally! This was at about 1:30pm.

Apparently, the water was gushing with just enough force to make it hard to cap the pipe. Blake ran next door to try to find my neighbor to ask if we could turn the water off for less than a minute to cap this pipe. Well, he wasn’t next door. So Daniel continued to try to cap the pipe, which ended in the cap shooting 20 feet in the air and landing somewhere that none of us could find. Great.

The plumber had to leave, but was going to come back the next morning. In the meantime, Blake and I were going to try to find the neighbor so we could shut the water off. Super easy fix, but of course it couldn’t be that easy!

Earlier that morning, I had decided that I wanted to walk at Sweetwater Creek to get some exercise in and to escape my house for an hour or so. After all of this craziness, Blake and I decided it was time to just head to Sweetwater.

We drove slowly by the neighbor’s house as a last-ditch effort to try to find him – lo and behold, he was home! Blake jumped out of the car and explained to him what was going on, and we ended up having a crazier situation than before.

My neighbor said that a similar situation happened around four years ago. The pipe was leaking, it was not attached to ANYBODY’S water meter, and the Water and Sewer Authority came and capped it. And then apparently it was covered with the aforementioned concrete. Oh, and apparently they added a shut off valve.

Okay, cool, so I called WSA and explained the situation. They sent some guys out to assess the problem. Woo hoo – finally it’s getting fixed! This was about 4:00pm.

In the time that all of this is happening, my yard is slowly turning into a lake. Like, you have to walk around really deep puddles, which is fun.

Anyway, the WSA men took a look and then asked if they could shut off my water just to make sure it wasn’t connected (didn’t believe us…?) and of course, it wasn’t.

Then they took out a metal detector to try to find a shut off valve.

They called in reinforcements to help. We heard them say on the phone, “we don’t even have a record of this line in our system.” That’s reassuring.

At this point, four WSA men are looking at the problem and still can’t find it.

The neighbor comes over, they shut off his water to test, too. The pipe’s still gushing.

They call in more reinforcements. One of the workers says that they are going to cap it today and they’ll have to come out another day to find the source so they can completely shut it off. That’s fine, I just don’t want water to pool next to my house and potentially ruin my foundation.

At this point, we have four WSA trucks at my house. I should mention that I live on a pretty busy street and people are beginning to get home from work. They are having to go around two of the trucks parked on the road. Most people’s faces are either pissed off that they’re having to do this or just really confused. It’s funny. I’ve also realized that I’m not going to be able to go to Sweetwater today.

It’s getting really hot and mosquito-y, so Blake and I head inside to let them work on capping the pipe. Around 5:30, we realize we haven’t heard anything recently, so we check outside and the workers are all gone. Uh, couldn’t they have told us they were leaving…?

We check the pipe, and it’s semi-capped, but still spraying water. Much smaller water stream, but still not fixed.

I call WSA, and get their voicemail. “Our office hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30am to 5:30pm.” Oh, cool. They left because it was quitting time and didn’t tell us. 

Wednesday morning, June 14 around 10:00am, I call WSA to say that I had people out yesterday, and I’m not sure if they’ve think they’ve fixed the problem or not, but it’s not fixed. The maintenance guy says, “oh, is this the abandoned line?” Cool, the story is becoming the talk of WSA.

As I am writing this, it’s currently 11:36am on Wednesday, and I am waiting on WSA to come back out.


Update: Wednesday, 6/14/17, 3:43pm

WSA was here for about 1.5-2 hours trying to fix the water line. They left again without telling me, but it looks like they’ve fixed the situation! No more abandoned water line!

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