Recently Salt Lake City had its own version of Old Faithful when a 48-ince water main broke on Foothill Boulevard just south of the University of Utah. Millions of gallons of precious water flooded homes and a Montessori School (the old Jewish Community Center) located just west of the break. Officials say that the geyser was created because of a flaw in the pipe’s connector and Salt Lake City Public Utilities (801.483.6700) is taking claims from anyone who has property that may have been damaged.
We’ve all been getting news stories in the past year that the infrastructure of U.S. cities is collapsing. There’s not a day that goes by in NYC where a manhole cover goes flying into the sky because yet another underground pipe has burst from age. We have old pipes in Utah, too. In Salt Lake City proper it’s common to find many of the old homes still have the original clay pipes taking the gray water and stinky stuff from the house to the sewer line out to the street.
How do you know if you have old pipes? You can check with the City and see if they have a record of any major work done on your sewer lines (as in when and if they were replaced from clay to cast iron). If you are about to purchase a home, especially an older home, it’s wise to have the sewer line scoped by a licensed plumber. The pipe specialist will send down a video camera to look at the goop, poop and cracks and advise you about the health of your sewer line. You WANT to know about your sewer line because guess what…if it breaks it costs a small fortune to fix it and it is most likely your home insurance isn’t going to cover the main line replacement. I’m talking $10-$20,000 bucks!
The SLC Water Dept. knows the mechanical infrastructure here is aging as do other utilities in the city. There’s a major gas line being replaced downtown that is 100 years old right now (which explains the traffic detours) and more construction upgrades planned for 400 South. Although we don’t see manhole covers flying into the air often we all know there are loose lids and smaller ones are often missing. For sewer lines upgrades there is hope for local homeowners because, after many discussions and meetings our city managers have become partners with an insurance company for property owners in case of sewer or water line failure. For @$10-15 a month a homeowner can get their poop chutes covered by this insurance with a handy 24/7 emergency response team ready to run to your shitty problem. Folks have bitched that SLC Corp. shouldn’t be in bed with a private insurance carrier, but what the hell, it’s cheap and you can always call your own insurance company and have them add this coverage onto your policy. Trust me, you are most likely NOT covered for sewer and water line breaks.
The first manhole covers were made of stone and were found in relics of ancient Roman streets. You can bet your bones that those centurions had the same problems we had with missing and broken manhole covers and leaky pipes. When it comes to shitty problems, time doesn’t change too much.