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Question DetailsAsked on 5/9/2018

Who can I get to inspect the storm sewer beneath my property that the city can not prevent from doing?

I hired a company to inspect the sewer that wanted to do a (rain flood simulation). The city denied it and hired a company that only shot some video and now claim the sewer has nothing to do with the holes in my property. My own dye water test says it does but they claim it got there by a means other than a breach or failure and Central Iowa televising's video proves it. The only thing if proves is that there is no other way. It's now become a safety issue and I can't find anyone to help me.

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Assuming the storm drain belongs to a government agency or quasi-official agency, three likely approaches:


1) get a civil engineering firm which does site development designs and has expertise in drainage system design and repair to investigate. They would have to get an exploration or survey permit from the agency to access the sewer, but the agency would be hard-pressed to deny access. Their first step would be viewing the video - they might agree with the agency that your soil is not significantly going into the sewer, even though your colored water might very well enter it.


2) go up against the agency at the government assembly or city council or whatever, starting with your area member to put pressure on them, to do more investigation into it.


3) get an attorney to get a court order allowing your engineer to investigate - called an Investigative Subpoena in many areas, it allows a party claiming damage to conduct an on-site investigation to prove their case preparatory to in-court hearings in a lawsuit for damages. Normally used in environmental damage or soil/groundwater contamination cases but could be used here - and if a lawsuit or notice of lawsuit was filed, the city/county attorney might put pressure on the utility to cooperate rather than go through an expensive lawsuit with significant financial risk for the agency. Many times just a strongly worded letter from an attorney threatening a lawsuit will bring them around on a minor thing like this.


Basically speaking, except in unusual cases, sinkholes in your yard would not be related to the sewer/storm drain unless they were within about X feet of the edge of the culvert - X being the depth to the bottom of the culvert or drain pipe. So, if bottom is 6 feet down, normally (unless real loose and wet silty or sandy soil) one would not normally see sinkholes caused by it leaking soil in further away than 6 feet from the outside of it - roughly. Of course, the more standing water there is in your yard and the finer grained the soil type, the more likely that there would be subsoil erosion into the pipe.


Of course, if multiple sinkholes aligned with and roughly over the pipe, that would be a presumptive cause till proven otherwise.


And of course, I would get your water and sewer and any other utility lines located on your property - sinkholes/depressions could well be due to settlement of utility trenches over time, or leakign water or sewer line to your house, if aligning with one or more of those.


Note that dyed water might infiltrate into the drain - especially if a corrugated metal culvert which commonly leak water through bolt holes if not properly sealed with rubber gaskets (washers). Whether it would carry soil along with it, causing sinkholes, would depend on amount of water and hydraulic head, soil type, opening size, etc.


One other thing - depending on the backfill used around the pipe, it could be your soil is piping (eroding out and being carried by the water) down into the backfill gravel or crushed rock around the storm drain pipe or culvert, and not actually going into the pipe itself - which would be harder to prove.


One other thing - if a continuous storm drain pipe then some agency certainly owns it - but if just a culvert under your property open at both ends, it might actually belong to you even if they have drainage rights through it - in which case, in some areas, would be your responsibility to maintain it, ,with their concurrence on the design of any repairs.

Answered 6 months ago by LCD




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