abandoned side sewer leaking

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by crispycode, Mar 1, 2013.

  1. crispycode

    crispycode New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Hi all,

    I was hoping to get some input on a problem I've run across while constructing a pool.

    The excavator hit an old side sewer line in my backyard that runs to the city's abandoned concrete main sewer line further back in the yard. Unfortunately there was a lot of clear water running out of the side sewer pipe and even around it. This presents a problem since I can't have underground water leakage compromising the integrity of the pool shell.

    I was told that I need to have a plumber dig close to where the old side line meets the abandoned main line, plug the side line with concrete, and then backfill the hole with dirt. This in theory would stop the flow of water and, in the event of a leak in the future, the water would still be a good distance away from the pool. This won't be an inexpensive proposition because the hole will need to be hand dug for various reasons (proximity to an Oak tree, gas lines, and a big wood playset)

    The guy from the city told me it would be $300-$400 but I've had estimates closer to $1600. Everyone I talk to though asks me why I'm not having the city do something about it since the water is originating from the main sewer line which is likely compromised given its age (> 60 years) and lack of maintenance. I've asked the public works manager about it and he claims it's not the city's problem since they plugged the main line at both ends years ago and no longer take responsibility for it. He also said that whoever built my house back in the early 90's should have cut the line and sealed it off at the back of the yard.

    My question is whether to a) bite the bullet and lay out the cash to dig out and plug up my old side sewer line or b) press the city to stop the infiltration of water into the abandoned main line that's ending up in my side line?

    Any input would be greatly appreciated!

    - John
  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,270
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    The REAL question is WHY is there water, clear or dirty, coming out of an abandoned and capped sewer line? That SHOULD be the city's responsibility, because some one may still be running water into it. Once it was abandoned, it should make no difference whether your line is open, capped, cut, or anything else. when we abandon lines we just cut it off and bury it.
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2013
  3. crispycode

    crispycode New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Thanks very much for the reply. I was thinking the same thing but the city guy disavowed responsibility for the main line since they "abandoned" it. I would think they still have a responsibility to keep water out of it though. Couldn't that potentially cause a sinkhole?

    When you say you "cut it off and bury it", what exactly does that mean? Does it mean you dig holes at both ends, plug the ends, and then backfill the holes? I want to make sure they didn't cut corners. I read that sometimes cities will pump slurry into the old lines to keep them from cracking in the future but I'm guessing that wasn't done in this case.

    Thanks!
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,270
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    NO! I mean we break the pipe off and then bury the broken end. If it is abandoned it has NO function and thus does not need to be sealed.
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,816
    Location:
    New England
    Depending on where the water table is, it could be ground water taking the path of least resistance.
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,270
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    If that were the case, then the "ground water" will be around the pool regardless of what he does about THIS pipe. AND, "the path of least resistance" would be the pool excavation.
  7. crispycode

    crispycode New Member

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Thanks for the continued advice. It's true... the water coming out of the side line could be ground water. It's coming out of the side sewer line and around it. Unfortunately, some of the backfill around the pipe is brick (the builder of the current house is probably to blame for this) making it somewhat like a french drain below the top soil. And I do get standing water at the back of the yard.

    The water coming out has slowed since the last rain we had 2 weeks ago but there is still a small flow. BUT, in my opinion, it's just too much water for my yard to produce, especially given that my sprinkler system was knocked out during the excavation and my yard is bone dry right now. The plumber who gave me an estimate agreed with me and thought the water was originating from the abandoned line. I'm betting that if the city keeps the water out of the abandoned line then I won't have a problem.

    It sort of a catch-22. I want the city to keep their main line dry, but I can't definitively prove there's water in it unless I examine my side line right where it meets the main line. And if I'm going to do that, I might as well just pay someone to do the job I described in my first post. Nuts... I'll post a picture of the yard tomorrow

    HJ and Jadnashua - thanks again for the comments. If either of you have an additional thoughts, I'm all ears.

    - John
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