N4T Investigators: Homeowner owes thousands in repairs after cou - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

N4T Investigators: Homeowner owes thousands in repairs after county approves a sewer connection that was never made

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For five years, Lisa and Jorge Carranza were living on top of a pit of raw sewage and they never even knew it. Until earlier this week, when it finally started spilling back into their home.

“We actually found that the plumbing out to the sewage is missing two feet of pipe that was never actually connected to the city,” a disgusted Jorge Carranza said.

It’s a homeowner’s worst nightmare: A repair costing thousands of dollars because someone didn't do their job correctly, years ago.

This was the Carranza’s first home. The family of four moved into the 1996  home five years ago. They were living above a virtual cesspool.

“All that waste has been building up underneath our driveway for the past almost 20 years,” Jorge said.

Lisa first encountered the problem, last week. “It wasn't good. We had sewer water coming into our house so it's been 20 years where this has been under our house collecting,” she said.

The fix was simple. All someone needed to do was add a couple feet of pipe from where the line comes out of the Carranza's home and connected to the Pima County sewer system. Amid all that murky waste, it's clear that 20 years someone screwed up.

So who's responsible? The News 4 Tucson Investigators went to work pressing the city, the homebuilder and the county for answers for the Carranzas.

The sanitary sewer connection permit shows someone from Pima County signed off on the connection on November 27, 1995, meaning an official approved the permit. The homebuilder company, Richmond  America Homes, took our calls at first, but then never responded when we explained the issue with the home it built. Jorge says after that, a representative from Richmond America Homes paid him a visit.

“Richmond America built this house and I don't think it's acceptable for them to just wait for someone else to fix the mistake that they made,” he said.

According to the Pima County Wastewater Department, there were two errors made when the home was built: The homebuilder didn't add the connection but the county inspector signed off on it as if the connection had been made.

By late Thursday, Pima County Wastewater told the News 4 Tucson Investigators that the county is going to pay for the repairs.

“Somebody made a goof 20-22 years ago and we're discovering it today,” said John Warner, deputy director of the Pima County Wastewater Conveyance Division.

Fortunately for the Carranzas and for Pima County, the missing segment of pipe fell in an area that allows the county to use a special fund to conduct repairs.

“It's for instances such as this where there is a residential problem within a right of way area,” Warner said.

If another section of pipe on the private property had been missing, there might have been a legal fight between the Carranzas and the county.

The Carranzas are relieved but haven't been yet reimbursed the $7,000 they paid to front the cost of the repairs.

Jorge and Lisa say it was the intervention of the News 4 Tucson Investigators that helped speed the process up and minimize their costs.

“My initial conversation with them, no. They just kept passing the buck to each other and I really thought I was on my own. It was because of the involvement of KVOA that we started getting phone calls from everybody saying they were interested in helping,” Jorge said.

The wastewater department tells us this has happened at other properties in Pima County.

Anthony Vigliotti, manager of RK Plumbing says this was a first for him.

“We have equipment that we can look inside the line. We have a camera that gives us the capability to look inside the sewer line. And determine if it's hooked up to the city main. In this case, when I came out to try and clear the sewer line for the homeowner, all we were pulling back was mud,” Vigliotti said.

We are looking into how often this sort of lapse happens and we will report on our findings. If you have an issue you want the News 4 Tucson Investigators to look into, email investigators@kvoa.com or call 955-4444.

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