Leaking Pipe Leads to Insane $11,000 Water Bill

Every now and then, life throws a surprise at us that we weren’t expecting. For member justinramani in North Carolina, that came in the form of a shocking $11,000 water bill that his family received earlier this month.

Justin, an active duty member of the armed forces currently on deployment in Iraq, got the news from his wife, who received the two water bills totaling more than $11,000. How on earth could this happen? What seems like every homeowner’s nightmare had a fairly simple answer linked to the original installation of the pipe.

After hearing the news, Justin immediately called the builder of his home to get to the bottom of the cause. It turns out a small hole in a section 1,300 feet of underground pipe (2″ schedule 40 PVC) had formed, allowing the 50gpm of water flow to pour into the sandy soil. With a 1.5″ meter, that meant a reading of more than two million gallons of water went back into the earth in just two months.

Photo of the actual pipe that was leaking.
This photo of the actual pipe that was leaking.

Turns out the plumber who ran the pipe used DWV pipe, which stands for Drain Waste Vent and is not intended for use in 50psi pressure lines. Not only that, but the 1,300-foot run had more than 50 connections in it, creating many points of potential failure. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. What probably started as a pinhole-size leak gradually grew into a much larger hole and for two months, the water just gushed out.

The scene of the leaking pipe shows significant erosion after two million gallons of water escaped.
The scene of the leaking pipe shows significant erosion after two million gallons of water escaped.

“There is so much movement in the ground that that it pulls and compresses the pipe over and over again. Eventually it fails,” member Eddie Walker commented. “Your pictures showing the hole is a classic example of this type of failure. It only takes a hairline crack to give water the ability to leak. Then over time, that leak grows as the pipe erodes. I would have expected this to have taken several years to happen… For a water line that far, gasketed pipe has to be used.”

With the likely culprit found, the solution to preventing future leaks will be a costly re-pipe of nearly a quater-mile supply line to Justin’s house. But just as important as the fix, what came of the $11,000 water bill? Long story short, in the end the builder stepped up and negotiated the bill down to $625 with the water company, and even took care of that cost for the homeowner.

The builder also agreed to re-pipe the entire run using HDPE rolls this time. Justin is optimistic that this will be a better solution. “I have read mostly positive reviews about it and we actually have it in use out here in Iraq – its pretty tough stuff. By far the biggest advantage is the fact that we will only have 3 connections over our 1300 foot run,” Justin said.

The new pipe should be installed next week. Let’s hope this is the last time Justin experiences a leak in his piping.

To read more details about this story, check out the $11,000 Water Bill topic in our discussion forums.

One Comment

  • Please publish the builder’s name. He deserves the good press.

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