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Upstate NY (USA) here. I live in a very small, rural village (only a few hundred people). The street we live on has a sewer line that all the houses connect to. Last week our neighbors noticed a very prominent "fault line" (a long line of indented/depressed/sunken grass and driveway) running about 100 feet across their property (and driveway), our property and another neighbor's property. Our fear is that the sewer line in this area has somehow collapsed.

We called the town and they sent their Water Superintendent. He didn't know what to make of it and wasn't even sure where the sewer runs on the street (although I know for a fact that the sewer runs in the general area where this fault line occurs because we actually had to replace our sewer main several years ago). He said he would be able to take a "better look at it" in the spring!

The problem is, if the sewer really has collapsed, it will fill up very quickly, well before then.

It would be nice if I could:

  • know where the sewer runs (so we can either keep a collapsed sewer as a possible candidate and culprit; or rule it out); and
  • know which direction the sewer flows (so I know what neighbors might be affected by a collapsed sewer, obviously anyone "upstream" of the collapse); and
  • know how to compel the town to take diagnostic action sooner
    • if we knew what are dealing with something non-sewer/municipal service related, we can exclude the town from further discussions, as its a private matter; or
    • if we knew that the sewer had collapsed, we might have stronger leverage to compel them to fix it ASAP

So my question: do towns, by law, need to maintain (somewhere? even at the county level perhaps) maps of where the sewers run or which direction they run in? Do they (again, by law) need to provide prompt reaction to when critical infrastructure fails?

Thanks in advance for any and all help here!

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  • If you aren’t swimming in sewage, the sewer hasn’t collapsed.
    – Dale M
    Feb 28 at 21:32
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    Objection, you're honor! Speculation Feb 28 at 21:38
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    expert opinion - engineer who runs a plumbing company
    – Dale M
    Feb 28 at 21:41
  • well thats super impressive but its still wild speculation Feb 28 at 21:46

1 Answer 1

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do towns, by law, need to maintain (somewhere? even at the county level perhaps) maps of where the sewers run or which direction they run in?

Sometimes it would be recorded in a plat or easement in the real property records of the county where the sewer was located, but not always. The relevant town official would usually maintain a map, but sometimes a town doesn't.

Do they (again, by law) need to provide prompt reaction to when critical infrastructure fails?

Usually not. In general, you have no legal right to compel the town to take action. Elect new officials to run the town.

If money is a factor, often the city with explicitly or tacitly allow you to fix it at your own expense.

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  • Thanks @ohwilleke (+1) but I am somewhat shocked to hear this. I've been paying property taxes here since 2009. You're saying there's nothing that obligates a local town to maintain the infrastructure we pay taxes on? Feb 28 at 21:40
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    @hotmeatballsoup It isn't a contractual arrangement. You can protest in front of town hall and make a stink and get on the nightly news.
    – ohwilleke
    Feb 28 at 21:42

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