Local News

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

Posted January 26, 2015 5:37 p.m. EST
Updated January 26, 2015 9:12 p.m. EST

— 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.