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It happens: Ripon failed to connect home to sewer 18 years ago
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RIPON – Allan Sloan had been faithfully paying his monthly Ripon sewer bill for 11 years for the privilege of flushing his toilets into the city sewer pipe system and out to the wastewater treatment plant.

He’s discovered things aren’t always what they appear to be.

After experiencing repeated sewer back-ups, a plumbing service discovered the problem: There is a 2-foot gap between the end of his sewer line and the city line. The sewer for years had been simply percolating into the ground until recently when it finally backed up into the house.

The City of Ripon recently agreed to reimburse him for over $1,800 for what he’s paid in municipal sewer fees over the last 11 years.

 “In return, I agreed to drop my complaint,” Sloan said on Tuesday.

He’s lived at the home in the 900 block of Milgeo Avenue during that span. In early December, Sloan, who uses a wheelchair to get around due to health issues, discovered after making several calls for plumbing service that the line from his home to the city sewer line was never connected.

He was seeking $1,991 from the City as reimbursement for the work required to fix the problem. Sloan will get about $100 less than what he asked in his claim submitted Dec. 16, 2010 against the City of Ripon.

“I’m happy with our settlement,” Sloan said.

The two-foot gap on the unconnected sewage line was discovered by Thrifty Plumbing & Sewer Service on Dec. 6, with the work here consisting of two hours of digging.

Sloan notified the City of Ripon Public Works Department to witness the error that took place when home was built and inspected in 1983.

Public works finally completed the hookup to the sewer line.

“We tested the work by flushing the toilets,” Sloan said in his Dec. 15 narrative. “The front bathroom toilet functioned properly but the back bathroom did not.”

The result of that was a messy situation inside the house.

Thrifty Plumbing sent out a plumber the next day. He snaked the back bathroom from the back yard and finally got the toilet to function properly.

On Dec. 8, an adjuster from Sloan’s homeowners’ insurance company assessed the damage to the carpet and floor caused from the overflowing water.

“There was no damage to the floor or the walls,” Sloan said.

He had receipts on the work done since discovering the problem, including the following:

• Dr. Rooter, Dec. 3. Cost, $183.53 – Emergency leaning of sewer line and use of camera.

• Dr. Rooter, Dec. 4. Cost, $525 – High pressure of cleaning sewer line and use of camera.

• Thrifty Plumbing & Sewer Service, Dec. 5. Cost, $94 – Snaked out line from upper terminal clean out.   

• Thrifty Plumbing & Sewer Service, Dec. 6. Cost $851 – Found unconnected sewer line by digging. Connected house sewer line to city sewer line. Fill in hole with city-provided dirt.

• Service Masters of Stockton, Dec. 8. Cost, $337.67 – Dried out carpet that got wet when toilet overflowed due to backing up.

He initially noticed that his toilets were not flushing properly on Dec. 3.

“Since I have severe health problems I was not able to plunge the toilets,” said Sloan, who sought assistance from a neighbor to unclog the toilet and later borrowed a snake in an effort to clear the line.

The problem escalated.

“When they flushed the toilet, it overflowed, sending toilet water on to the floor,” he said. “Sewage water also started backing up into the kitchen sink, the shower, and the bathroom tub.”

At the Feb. 15 council session, City Attorney Tom Terpstra noted that the original claim was denied because it wasn’t filed in a timely manner or within six months.

Not so, according to Sloan.

“The ‘incident / accident’ occurred on Dec. 3, 2010 (and) not circa 1983,” he said. “I didn’t take ownership of the house until November 1998, some 15 years prior to the city’s failed inspection.”

The City discussed the legalities involving the matter in closed session at previous council meetings before offering a settlement.

Sloan was OK with it.

“Well, (expletive) happens,” he said.