Drainage plagues homeowners

Published 10:06 pm Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Neither VDOT or Isle of Wight wants to take responsibility for outfalls

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

CARROLLTON — About 40 feet of Otis Brock’s backyard has fallen off and washed down Bulls Creek. The edge of the property is marked by a chasm that is at least nine feet deep. 

Brock is worried that the erosion will continue to chew through his property, making it unsightly and dangerous, and worse, difficult to sell in the future. 

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The cause of the erosion is a failing outfall stormwater pipe. The outfall runs from the street, Deep Water Way in Carrollton, and under the ground along the edge of Brock’s property to the creek, where water from the road is discharged. It serves six storm drains in his neighborhood.

“Somebody has got to do something,” said Brock. 

But who that somebody is, is the question no one can answer right now. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Currently, VDOT does not maintain pipes and other infrastructure that is beyond the road right-of-way and through private property, but will intervene if stormwater impacts road travel. 

Isle of Wight does not own the infrastructure either, and has estimated that it would likely cost about $150,000 to fix one of the outfall pipes, according to Isle of Wight County Utility Services Director Don Jennings.  

In Brock’s case, the developers installed the system with VDOT oversight in the early 1990s, but there was no owner of the easement or the system assigned at the time, said Jennings. 

Brock said it appears that the outfall pipe near his house has pulled apart, forcing the water to go where it wasn’t intended. 

Jennings said that in the years after Brock’s subdivision was installed, the county had to sign off on drainage easements, but that doesn’t apply to those prior to that time. 

With an untold number of outfall pipes and storm drainage systems in the county, fixing the pipes is unaffordable option for Isle of Wight, said Newport District Supervisor William McCarty during a meeting Thursday with state legislators, who included Del. Emily Brewer, R-64, Sen. John Cosgrove, R-14, Sen. Tommy Norment, R-3 and Sen. Louise Lucas, D-18.. 

Another issue is that if Isle of Wight took ownership of the drainage systems, it would push the county back into a renewed MS4 permit — representing an added layer of the state’s stormwater oversight — and which Isle of Wight got out from under in 2016, said Jennings. That resulted in a 25 percent reduction in what property owners pay for the annual stormwater fee — and allows Isle of Wight to take on stormwater projects on a voluntary, rather than mandatory, basis.  

McCarty said that while the localities and state sort out who is responsible, the property owners can take either entity to court for relief.

Isle of Wight County Administrator Randy Keaton told legislators that this is a problem that impacts the few living near the failing infrastructure.

“They’re taking the brunt of all the water coming off the roadways,” said Keaton. 

Recently, a group of residents from the Carrollton area came to a stormwater advisory committee meeting to air their concerns. 

Jerry Franklin was one of those residents. He lives off Obrey Drive, where an outfall pipe has often been blocked, which can cause flooding. With a major hurricane in the forecast back in September, Franklin thought it was time to clean it out. 

Franklin called VDOT, but was told the agency doesn’t maintain outflow pipes beyond the road’s right-of-way and that it was Isle of Wight’s responsibility. 

Franklin was then told that Isle of Wight does not own, nor maintain, them either. 

Calling it a “limbo situation,” Franklin used his own pressure washer to clean out the debris that had built up in the pipe, but wasn’t able to remove it all.  

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice told legislators Thursday that VDOT can’t address this issue alone. 

“They need funding. This is infrastructure that has fallen apart,” said Grice.

Legislators asked if the county was collecting stormwater fees and Jennings said the annual revenue was about $1.2 million. About half of that goes to administrative costs. 

“I don’t have an answer. We’ve just identified the problem,” said Grice.

Meanwhile, Franklin plans to keep cleaning out the pipe on his street. He advises property owners to pay attention to those stormwater pipes that extend beyond the right-of-way, because no one is going to take care of them. 

“They’re orphan pipes,” he said.  {/mprestriction}