CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- It was July 3rd when Mike Vaughn says "gobs of water was coming out. It was pretty obvious it was a water main break."
Mike was right, he arrived to find the water main under the city sidewalk in front of his sister's house gushing water, so much water that it piled up in front of the house which sits lower. Within the hour it began to wash away part of the foundation as it streamed around and down to the back.
"It was a tremendous amount of water coming out," Mike told us. The rushing water found its way inside and down to the basement where it soaked the walls and floors. Total cost of all damage? About $20,000 to $25,000, at least that's the early estimate. Insurance paid $7,300, but Mike says the rest will come out of his sister's pocket. Mike says the City of Charlotte told them they're not responsible because they didn't break the pipe, so they're not footing the bill.
"It's not on her property, it's on the city's property, I just don't understand," says a frustrated Mike.
City officials are not responsible for the break, but aren't they responsible for the maintenance of the pipes? That's the question we're raising in this story.
The power company inspects and maintains, and so does the gas company, so it's only logical that water mains would be inspected to find weak spots in older infrastructure. Right? This neighborhood along Seneca was built in the 1950s and so the pipes are 64 years old. If they weren't properly inspected, or done so in a timely fashion, shouldn't the city take responsibility?
"It's hard for me to find words for that explanation," says Vaughn. The I-Team spoke with Mike's sister, Stephanie Clay, who now lives out of state and is trying to sell the property. "It's a nightmare," said Stephanie, "I don't know how I'll cover the cost of fixing this, and I didn't have anything to do with the break!"
I wrote the city three emails asking specifically about the maintenance of those pipes. This is one of the replies I received back:
"Most water pipes are installed around the time the neighborhood was built. I don't have an exact date for the water line in front of this property. Some past rehab / replacement projects have been in these neighborhoods: Wilmore, Plaza-Midwood, Eastover, Chantilly, Dilworth, South End, Belmont, Myers Park, Queens Road West, Selwyn Avenue, Villa Heights, Pineville, Matthews, McCrorey Heights, Colonial-Sedgefield, Thomasboro, Plaza-Shamrock, and other neighborhoods."
While I appreciate the reply, you can see that it doesn't answer our questions about the maintenance.
After all, Mike says he and his sister aren't trying to get one over on the city, they just want to be made whole, even if the pipe under them isn't.