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Discussion Starter #1
OK here is my long question...

I have a home in NJ and a cable company bored a new cable line under my property and under my driveway. Soon after the ground where they ran the line (next to my driveway) slowly started sinking into the ground. They added dirt and packed it and it happened again. Then my driveway sunk and they patched a portion of it. Then the driveway patch sunk and I called again and now they decided to dig down to try and detect what they may have hit. At the edge of my lawn running parallel with my sidewalk at a depth of about 4 feet they found a 6 inch pvc drainage line. The only thing we can come to a conclusion on is that it is a main drain for the sump pumps in the neighborhood. At first we thought the pipe got damaged but after further investigation we found that it is perforated on the bottom. So apparently the sump pump water is undermining the front of my property. This also explains why the area at the corner of my property (approximately 30 feet away) is sinking also (My township was looking into this thinking the storm sewer might possibly be leaking)

My house is 10 years old and I have been here for 6. I am now being told that this is going to be my responsibility. Do I have any recourse against the builder? Should the pipe be perforated? The township for the meantime told me they will look back in the plans and get back to me.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated.
 

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Licensed P.E./Home Insp
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757 Posts
Somebody's insurance should cover this, and it shouldn't be yours. If the contractor did it, guess what, he's the target. Unfortunately the One Call law doesn't cover storm drains.

If it were me, my first call would be to my home insurance company to see if they could go to bat for me and chase down the liable party. Second call would be to my lawyer. Third call would be to the town to let them know who I called, and that someone might be in touch with them. Fourth call to the cable company, with the same info.

There are also the property version of ambulance chasers out there. Forensic inspection companies that do the leg work if you were wronged. But they cut into your settlement.

Bottom line is there should have been a site plan with the pipe on it.
 

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Civil Engineer
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The pipe is perforated on the bottom. This suggests that the pipe is a French drain line, NOT an outlet for sump pumps. What makes you think that it is a connection for neighborhood sump pumps?

In order to solve the puzzle, you or the cable company, or the town, will need to trace the line upstream and downstream to see where it originates, and where it terminates. I would not necessarily assume that the cable company caused all the problems, it could be that the homes in the area were built on soft, wet ground, and have been sinking since they were built.

Whether or not you have recourse against the cable company or someone else depends on the specific facts, which unfortunately are likely to be expensive to determine. But perhaps the cable company will put up the money to hire an engineering company to trace the lines, determine their intended use, and offer an informed opinion about the cause of your problem.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
The pipe is perforated on the bottom. This suggests that the pipe is a French drain line, NOT an outlet for sump pumps. What makes you think that it is a connection for neighborhood sump pumps?
Yes the holes of the pipe are on the bottom and it was wrapped in fabric covered with stone which did lead me to believe it was a french drain. The reason we assumed the sump pump was tied into it is because the contractor who came out today to try and find out what was wrong said he intermittently heard water go through it. On his request I went into the house and flushed the toilet and ran the faucet and he did not hear anything. I then filled a bucket with water and poured it into my sump hole in the basement. The sump pump went on and he said he then heard water flowing.

So I guess it is possible that the contractor tied the residential sump pump lines from the houses into this french drain.
 

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Civil Engineer
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That is a very strange arrangement. The installation of the drain was obviously careful, they wrapped the pipe in filter fabric, and installed stone above the pipe. That is all consistent with correct tile line installation. Then someone tied your sump pump into a tile line? Quite bizarre.

You have converted a tile line designed to collect water from the surrounding soil into a drain line that will leak water into the ground. I have seen this done under unusual conditions where the goal was to recharge groundwater, but not under the conditions you describe. Your situation is so unique, that it will likely require significant engineering research to determine how many houses are tied to the drain, and what effect the connections are having on surrounding land. I would not assume that the cable company created the problem, it sounds like there may be a number of different things happening.
 
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