5 On Your Side

Homeowner Had Uphill Battle to Get Downhill Sewer Pipe

Posted December 21, 2006
Updated December 22, 2006

One of the perks of annexation to any city or town is municipal services. A lot of people would put water and sewer at the top of the list of benefits.

When you get annexed, you have to pay a connection fee, but the connection itself ought to be routine.

It was anything but for Barbara Wright when her property was included in a Cary annexation, and she turned to 5 On Your Side for help.

"It's so depressing looking at this," Wright said as she stared into a pipe trench that in one place runs more than 9 feet deep. The hole for her connection to a new Cary sanitary sewer line stretches from her front yard all the way to the back.

In October, Wright hired plumber Thomas Thornton to install the pipe so she could connect. She paid Cary $3,500. Thornton charged $3,000.

Two months later, however, she still wasn't connected.

The plumber said that when he laid the pipe to specifications, the town pipe to which it was supposed to connect was 2 inches too high. If he raised the end of her pipe so that the two lines would meet, Thornton said, the system wouldn't work because sewage has to flow downhill for the whole length of the pipe from the house the street.

In Wright's case, the house sits below street level, so the sewer pipe has to run deep in the ground in order to go downhill all the way to the street.

"It's just one of those freak things. Unbelievable," Thornton said. He laid the pipe twice and said he couldn't find an error on his end. He claimed Cary's pipe was off by 2 inches and the town needed to fix it.

Wright said repeated calls to all kinds of town leaders and workers got her nowhere.

"I am stuck in the middle because my plumber's swearing he's done the best he can. Cary is not interested they've got their money. They could care less what happens to us," Wright said.

Five On Your Side called the Town of Cary. Director of Inspections Bob Strowbridge told us the plumber simply had to prove his pipe installation met specifications.

The next day, Thornton and a town inspector met at Wright's house, re-measured everything and somehow the pipes connected.

"Don't ask me where we found the 2 inches because I can't tell you," Thornton said.

"Merry Christmas to me," Wright said. "This is so exciting. Thank you."


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  • readyrider2000 Dec 27, 2006

    The "plumber simply had to prove his pipe installation met specifications" what about Cary having to prove thier pipe installation met specifications? And somehow the pipes connected. I suggest Ms. Wright purchase a good toilet plunger.

  • ladypoetsteph Dec 27, 2006

    After all that the pipes rally did fit. Makes me wonder if the plummer was actually doing his job right or if he knew how to begin with. I feel for that lady.

  • crash Dec 25, 2006

    So many people in North Carolina get ripped off. I know first hand. It saddens me that no one really gave a darn about this women. But trust me if she had done something wrong they would be all over her like white on rice. People are good about taking your money and doing less than favorable jobs and in most cases getting away with it. Which I just do not understand.

  • Sabertooth Dec 22, 2006

    Problems such as these are not unusual in North Carolina. It often takes city government to get a kick on the butt to get anything done and even then they drag their butts doing it.

  • jlmkuw Dec 22, 2006

    no doubt, elevations don't just change. Someone is getting over on her somewhere. Unless the plumber was off originally. Its his work, he has to live with hearing from her in the future.

  • mrduffin Dec 21, 2006

    I hope the homeowner has a guarantee from the plumber so when the sewer gets stopped up he will unstop it free for life. That two inches came from running the pipe level or even at a backgrade. She has been done wrong in my opinion. She needs a letter from the city and the plumber to prevent future problems.