Well, the saga of the sewer pipe continues around here. We're at what... ten days and counting since gray water backed up into our bathtub on Halloween night? At this point, all I want is for this to be over. I'm not sleeping well in the early morning. I am getting far too familiar with the TV schedule at 4am and 5am. Yet it still seems to go on and on.
When I last took up the tale, water had backed up into the tub, the home warranty company had been called, and we received an initial estimate from the plumber they sent. Not willing to trust one estimate, I asked around and found a plumbing company that specializes in sewer line work. Because of a missed phone call on Friday morning, an initial appointment to get an estimate had to be put off until Monday -- and I ended up having to clean up some of my own raw sewage that leaked out the side of the house over the weekend. *shudder*
When Monday came, I got both good news and bad news. The bad news was that this was not going to be cheap. Some phone calls on my part determined that while we do live inside a particular municipality that maintains its portion of the "sewer lateral" between the street and the property line, our sewer service is provided by the county, not the city. The county does not provide line replacement, and makes property owners responsible for the cost of fixing the lateral all the way out to the main in the street. Sadly, the plumbing contractor I'd found determined that line replacement was necessary. He was able to get a camera all the way out to the main, and the line transitions from plastic to clay as it crosses our property line. That clay pipe is cracked in about three places, with mud accumulating in the line at two of those places, and roots occupying the other. Replacement is required.
The good news was that replacement was supposed to relatively simple. The line is located less than two feet under the ground. The county also allows line replacement without digging a full open trench. There was even a proper clay fitting where the lateral joins the main line, simplifying the replacement process. The estimate for the work gave me some profound sticker shock though: $4000. After a couple calls to verify that this particular contractor was on the up and up (though as pretty much the best in the area at this sort of work, likely to be a little expensive), I gave the go ahead to do the work. I did NOT want to have deal with my own sewage again any time soon.
Then began a process that I like to call "Waiting For Godot". The contractor told me on Monday that he said he could "have some fellows out here by as early as first thing tomorrow". So, I waited around for a while on Tuesday morning to see if anyone would show up. No one did.
The same thing happened on Wednesday... though I did at least get a phone call. Permitting was the problem, I was told. Permission to tear up a city street to work on a county sewer line required permits from both the city and the county, and no one was able to pick up the necessary permits on Tuesday. It was on the calendar for Wednesday though, and I was promised that work would begin on Thursday.
I waited again on Thursday, and no one arrived. A call on Thursday afternoon revealed the problem. The city does not offer walk-up counter service for the permit required to tear up the street. Proof of various kinds of insurance is required, credentials must be checked, and plans approved before work can begin. I was promised that a two man crew would begin the following morning.
The "fellows" (as the contractor calls them) did show up about 9:30 on Friday morning. I was thrilled. I was told that they would be done by the end of the day... with city and county inspections to follow on Monday. We would not have to worry about drains backing up over the weekend! That feeling lasted until about 1pm, when I saw that the "fellows" had abandoned working at the two ends of the pipe, and began cutting an open trench along its entire length.
Here, I should interject that this experience has allowed me to meet one of my neighbors. R. is a retired employee of the county public works department, who used to do precisely the kind of work I'm having done. So he's began hovering around the work as soon as he saw that I had a plumber out to look at the sewer line. He tells me, among other things, that the county would have paid for the work I'm having done ten years ago. "No new taxes" indeed!
I think R. spent yesterday having a grand old time -- indulging in the nostalgia of his old job, without doing any of the work. He was out there, introducing himself to the plumbers, looking over shoulders, and moving a hose or cone when necessary. He explained to me that the "sleeved replacement" of the pipe that they expected to do required that the clay pipe be split in place and that a plastic pipe be inserted in the widened hole. Sadly, the someone encased the clay pipe on concrete along its entire length, making that split impossible. A trench would be needed to get access to the whole pipe, the clay and concrete be broken up, and new pipe laid. He did at least compliment me on finding the contractor -- he said the "fellows" seemed to know exactly what they were doing, dug right in and really worked, and brought all the right tools and equipment to do the job.
At this point, I freaked for about two hours. I had visions that the $4000 job I'd committed to was going to double in price. That would strain our finances severely, given the amount of money we've laid down recently to buy this place. I finally got a hold of the contractor at about three o'clock. Yes, the cost of men and material would go up somewhat, but there was still hope that the job could be done in one day... and definitely not double in cost, regardless. The shallowness of the pipe made the cost of digging a trench minimal. That buoyed my spirits somewhat, but looking at the "fellows" as they worked, I had real doubts about whether or not they would finish in one day.
My fears were confirmed when the "fellows" began covering up the trench as it began to get dark around 5pm. No word yet about when the work will be done... but I'm thinking it will be on Monday. So now I get to spend the weekend wondering if the drains are going to back up... and how much this will cost when the dust settles. Until then, I think I will be waking up before 5am... not in a panic, but also not able to comfortably sleep.
on 2007-11-10 at 5:57 a.m.
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