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Raleigh cracks down on sewer lines, forcing some residents to move fences, pools

Posted January 26, 2015

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— Some Raleigh residents say a sudden shift in city policy regarding access to sewer lines is creating a mess in their backyards. Homeowners have been forced to move fences, retaining walls and even pools and pay for the cost out of their own pocket.

In 30 years of living at her home on Evers Drive, Shirley Hicks says she was stunned to learn a sewer pipe runs right through her backyard. The city has easement rights, meaning it has the right to access it without any obstructions, such as Hicks’ fence, trees and the doghouse she just built.

“It’s very frustrating,” Hicks said. “They’ve never had to (get to the sewer line) in the past.”

For years, the city has overlooked easement violations, allowing residents to build fences, sheds and even pools over sewer lines. The city only weeded them out on a case-by-case basis when there has been a blockage.

But a 2008 audit by the Environmental Protection Agency uncovered a big problem – an unusually high number of sewage overflows – and cited the City of Raleigh. Now, public works crews are clearing the trouble zones one by one.

Raleigh Assistant Public Utilities Director T.J. Lynch said he understands why many residents aren't happy about the more aggressive policy.

“For about the past four years, we’ve been hot and heavy on easement clearing and pipe cleaning,” he said. “Since we cleared them, we had access to them. Our inspectors can readily get back there open manholes and see what's happening inside the pipes on a routine basis, things they couldn't do before.”

Lynch says the number of overflows has dropped by half.

Hicks says she is coming to terms with the changing landscape, grudgingly.

“I have no choice. They're going to do what they're going to do,” she said.


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  • lucybear06 Jan 27, 2015

    This is on the homeowners. People buying houses, it is YOUR responsibility to get a survey done and review the title insurance commitment prior to closing on the property. Feel free to have the attorney explain it to you, but it is YOUR responsibility to know what is and isn't on your property. If the surveyor and/or title commitment doesn't show an easement, then you won't have to pay for damages like the ones described in this article - that's what title insurance is for, after all. If you're willing to spend 100K+ on a property, PLEASE be educated about what you are purchasing.

  • LocalYokel Jan 27, 2015

    This is another terrible example of journalism from WRAL because it lacks useful information.

    Facts such as the typical causes of sewer overflows (inappropriate materials put into the sewer system) and reward for being first to report a sanitary sewer overflow ($50).

  • babbleon Jan 26, 2015

    This does not have to be a problem, people.

    We have a sewer easement on the property we bought 10 years ago. We've had the city out twice to work on it, including replacing one of the pipes. The city reseeded where they dug and our son loved watching live 'digger tv'.

    When we build a fence, it will will not be over the easement. The shed? Not on the easement. It's not hard to do.

  • tran Jan 26, 2015

    And a lot of people put fences and sheds in easements, then sold their property. For several decades, there was no problem. Then the city wants access. Yes, the property owner(s) should have known better, blah blah blah. But most people do not pay attention to such stuff until their wallet gets lightened. Ultimately, the current property owner eats it unless as has been pointed out, the easement wasn't on the drawings. But how about realtors earning their 6% and pointing these things out before closing?

  • Flyfisher69 Jan 26, 2015

    Also, there are all kinds of easements that could be on your property.
    Sewer, water, power, phone, gas, access, and on and on and on.

  • Flyfisher69 Jan 26, 2015

    View quoted thread

    I know quite a bit about easements. Never seen an issue where there was a public sewer line, especially in the city limits in Raleigh, not be clearly stated on the deed.
    People are just not aware what happens when they flush the toilet in a public utility system. They think it just vanishes in thin air. Well, it doesn't.
    Also, a lot of these people were told they had an easement on their property and chose to ignore it when they put up their fence, pool, storage shed, etc.
    Know where your property line isand what easements, setbacks, and encumberances are on your property folks!
    A Land Surveyor is usually the best way to find out if you don't know.

  • James Barefoot Jan 26, 2015
    user avatar

    That Stinks!!!

  • Flyfisher69 Jan 26, 2015

    “It’s very frustrating,” Hicks said. “They’ve never had to (get to the sewer line) in the past.”

    They don't last forever! It's not called an easement for nothing and it is clearly stated as such on the deed to your house, AND the plat if one was made.
    Sewer lines need maintenance and the more difficult it is to access the repair, the longer it's gonna take to fix one.

  • landormariluz2002 Jan 26, 2015

    View quoted thread

    Yeah! What he said ;)

  • turkeydance Jan 26, 2015

    anonymouselol...you win. for this once,
    on WRAL comments....your concise and accurate explanation eliminates most debates. WRAL, this is your template.