Nobody will claim ‘orphan outfall’

Published 4:29 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Otis Brock’s Carrollton property continues to wash away while the question of who will take responsibility for orphan outfall drainage pipes remains unanswered.  

Brock and his son Guy have made repeated trips to the county’s stormwater advisory committee to complain about a failing VDOT outfall pipe, to no avail. 

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“Here we are sitting in the same seat we started with and a bigger hole,” said Otis’s son, Guy at a recent committee meeting.

Otis Brock lives next to the pipe — a piece of roadway infrastructure of which neither VDOT, or Isle of Wight County, will claim responsibility. Guy estimates that the crevice that has opened is now 50 feet long and 10 feet deep and continues to grow.

Recently, another section of the pipe has disconnected, said Guy. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

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.

At the March stormwater advisory meeting, the Brocks were told there is new legislation that allows localities to offer grants to property owners in situations such as this — but county staff advised forming a homeowner’s association before proceeding further. 

The HOA would aid with the financing of the project, said Isle of Wight Director of Utilities Don Jennings. 

Smithfield Supervisor Dick Grice, noting that the county’s concerns about these pipes were ignored at the state level this year, said that this could end up being a matter for the courts to decide. 

When asked if he was suggesting the Brocks file a lawsuit, Grice said, “no comment.”

Guy said later that going to court, or forming a homeowner’s association, are two costly propositions. 

Meanwhile, VDOT has a long-standing policy of not maintaining pipes and other infrastructure that is beyond the road right-of-way and through private property. 

Isle of Wight has determined that there is an untold number of outfall pipes and storm drain systems in the county, and has estimated it would cost about $150,000 to fix just one. 

In this case, the developers installed the system with VDOT oversight in the early 1990s, but there was no ownership of the easement or the system assigned at the time. 

If Isle of Wight were to take ownership of the pipes, it would also require the county to renew its MS4 permit, which represents an added, and more costly, layer to the state’s stormwater oversight. 

When the county got out of that permit in 2016, it was able to reduce the annual stormwater fee for residential and commercial property owners. It also allows Isle of Wight to take on stormwater projects on a voluntary, rather than mandatory, basis. 

“The minute we touch this, people’s taxes go up,” said David Kuzma, environmental programs coordinator for Isle of Wight County at the stormwater advisory meeting.

Guy said he plans to continue contacting state legislators, as well as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation “since all the dirt is ending up there.” 

Guy wants other Isle of Wight residents to know that if they live in a subdivision and the stormwater drain fails, it’s the responsibility of the homeowner’s association — if the neighborhood has one established. 

“Also, if you own land that has a drainage easement, if you have no homeowners association good luck with getting the drain fixed when it fails.  The pipes are only good for about 20 years before they begin to have issues, even with proper maintenance.  We know we can’t be the only ones in the county with this issue on situation, the residents of Isle of Wight need to be informed about the “orphaned drain pipes,” said Guy in an email.  {/mprestriction}