Friday, December 2, 2011

Friday Rant: Water


Photo Credit Dottie Mae
It's something most of us take for granted.  We turn on a tap and it comes out.  We flush the toilet and it refills.  Unless, of course, you forget to pay your water bill, or the moron half a mile down the road from you breaks the pipe while he's digging in his yard for the lost treasure of Blackbeard.

We have issues with our water.  We have to filter it to make it drinkable.  It's not that it's bad-it passes the annual inspection every year, although not with flying colors.  The water where we live has a "flavor" to it.  It also has a high mineral content, which means our hair looks great and we have probably sent three of our dentist's children to college.  But I can live with that.

We live about four miles outside of a town with a population of about 400.  When they first installed water lines, some forward thinking town council members, or maybe just ones that lived out of town, decided to install water lines a number of miles out of town, thereby enabling them to provide service to people who live out of town.  It also increased their bottom line, as they get my water payment every month, without me living in town and paying higher property taxes.

That factor was a consideration in our decision to buy this house.  We'd waited so long for the perfect opportunity to come up, but we still had several key criteria that needed to be met before we would buy.  Water was one of them.  If you live out in the backwoods, and you don't have water, you have a few options:  1.  Get water from a naturally occuring or man made pond on your land.  As we're about five years into a drought, this is not the best option.  2.  Dig a well.  With the water table being at about 800-1000 feet, and digging prices being what they are, we're looking at about $10,000 to $12,000 to dig a well.  And being five years into a drought, we know from friends that a well is not a guarantee of water.  3.  Dig a cistern, and either go buy water or have it delivered.  Most people around here go buy water, which requires a cistern for  $1,500 plus rental of a backhoe, a portable tank for another $1,500, and a truck.  We don't have a truck, and didn't need one until we had land, so we didn't want to spend the "buy the house" savings on a truck we weren't really going to use until we bought the house.  Make sense?  Buying a house that was on a water line was a huge priority for us, and that's exactly what we found.

Photo Credit: katerha
Earlier this week, we noticed town utility workers marking pipe near our land.  We didn't really think much of it; not only do they have pipes buried in the area, but the phone company, fiber optics, etc.  That kind of thing happens with regularity out here in the backwoods, so we don't really think much of it.  Mr. Sullivan ran into one of the town utility workers when he went to go pick up the kids at school yesterday, though, and asked what was going on over there, and the answer he got floored him, and me when he came home and told me.

The water line to our house, and about five other homes, is broken.  It's not wrecked, because we still have water, but it does need repairs.  According to the utility worker my husband spoke with, the town council is currently discussing whether to repair it...or just shut it off.  If the water is shut off, it would leave us completely without running water.  Another option being discussed is whether or not to allow us to pay for the repair.

I have no idea what the cost of repairs will be.  I know the town charges about $40 per man hour for labor.  They will probably charge us for the cost of the backhoe usage.  They will charge us for all parts used in the repair.  And while we'll split the costs six ways, the number I'm seeing in my head is huge, and falling just before Christmas, screws us over just as much as either of the other options.

What I'm really angry about is that they didn't tell us.  If Mr. Sullivan hadn't have run into the town utility guy at school, we never would have known.  I think we just would have woken up one morning without water, and would have had to call to find out why.  We know, because we were discussing another issue with the Sheriff, that the town is required to give us a certain amount of notice before discontinuing services.  We also know that, until threatened with legal action, this town does pretty much what it wants to do, which is part of why we live in the backwoods.

So the plan is to call around and find out just how much notice they are required to give.  Then I'll go to the next town council meeting and threaten legal action.  It is my hope that, at the threat of legal action, the town will decide to repair the line on their own.  They agreed to provide us service when they took our money, and now are obligated to do so,without making us pay for the repair-or at least giving us time to do so, so that our Christmas isn't ruined.

Unfortunately, we'll have to wait to see how it goes.

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