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A busted storm water pipe floods neighborhood with questions | News

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A busted storm water pipe floods neighborhood with questions

DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. (WXIA) --  A busted storm water pipe is causing a flood of questions in Douglas County as the community debates who should pay to fix it.

What started out as a small hole about two feet wide in Ann Mousel’s yard, has now turned into a giant sinkhole.  Looking at the natural flow of storm water runoff in the area, it’s likely the hole will only get bigger if the problem remains unresolved.

The pipe in question leads off from a culvert on Winding Trail Court in the Peach Orchard subdivision.  Before reaching a drainage ditch in the back of Mousel’s neighborhood, the joint between two pipes has broken, allowing the water to spill out.

Mousel admits, she never really thought much about the 48-inch corrugated pipe until it broke last September.

“We had two holes, then three holes, now they’re all connected,” she said explaining how the problem has evolved.

She called the Douglasville-Douglas County Water and Sewer Authority, WSA, to have the pipe fixed before it threatened her house, only to learn they wouldn’t help.

“They sent an engineer out first and she walked around and said, 'This is on private property.  It’s your problem'.”

Mousel and several of her neighbors protested, arguing it may be her property but it isn’t her pipe or even her storm water.  

“This pipe collects from over five acres of land that is far away from this area,” said Dionka Sims, who lives next to Mousel.

Gil Shearouse, the WSA Director, says the pipe was installed by a developer, not to improve the community, but to use the land for more homes.  

“Otherwise there would be a ditch right there and that pipe wouldn’t exist,” he said.

Sims says the problem is bigger than one sinkhole.  In fact, we found sinkholes all around the neighborhood.  From house to house, the frustration seemed the same.  A big hole, an expensive problem and no one willing to fix it.

“We don’t allow dedication of the private pipes. It would be like us fixing somebody’s roof if it failed,” said Shearouse.

But Sims feels it’s more like a power pole.  It serves the public good and may even be on a private property easement.  But if it falls, it’s the responsibility of the power company to pick it back up and get the power restored.

We surveyed other counties to see how they would handle the problem.  While every county stressed rulings are made on a case by case basis, Gwinnett, Cobb, Fulton and Atlanta would likely make the repair.  Cherokee and Dekalb had policies similar to Douglas County and would likely make the homeowner foot the bill.

The cost to fix the problem ranges from $500 to $30,000 depending on who you ask and whether you want a short or long term fix. It’s money Mousel says she doesn’t have.

“If it gets to the point where my house is not safe, then I’m going to have to end up giving the house back to the bank,” said Mousel.

Shearouse says they try to educate the community to do their homework before making any home purchase.  He warns people to look at their deed to check for easements that could leave the homeowner liable.  He also recommends walking a potential property to look for drainage issues.