Sinhoke on Duerstein Street in Buffalo
Buffalo, NY - We're hearing about more sinkholes developing on some streets in Buffalo and that could be much more of a problem for property owners. That is especially the case if the city determines it's caused by leaking or broken water pipes which undermine the street.
City Council Majority Leader Richard Fontana estimates the repairs could run up to three or four thousand dollars or more in repairs if the city makes the ruling that a property owner's pipes are leaking or broken. He says much of the problem is tied to the age of the pipes.
People on Duerstein Street off of Seneca Street in South Buffalo recently sent us pictures of a deep sinkhole which opened up this past weekend. The city feels the homeowner is responsible but in this case the city will make a repair according to City Spokesman Mike DeGeorge. It is in the middle of the street near the sewer line.
There have been others like a sinkhole that opened up two weeks ago on Willet Street off Clinton in Kaisertown.
In this case the property owner was definitely determined to be liable and has to bring in a plumber and contractor to make this costly repair.
Councilman Fontana says city policy is that the property owner is responsible for the pipes from their home to the water main in the street. Some of those pipes may be 50 to 100 years old in some neighborhoods.
Fontana says "I think it's just another year older and it's just more traffic is some of these streets. Sometimes you get truck traffic that's too heavy. That's causing it. But the age of the pipes. Every year we get older...I know I feel my knees more now. So things like that happen as the pipes get older and they have to be maintained. Unfortunately some of these homes aren't even maintained to begin with let alone the plumbing. So that becomes a problem."
Now in some cases the city does make the repair at the homeowner's request rather than use a private contractor. But the city will then bill them on their taxes so they're still paying a lot.
But the city has a deal with its water company to actually offer insurance policies covering those pipes It runs ten dollars a month for both water and sewer which would then cover the repairs if they break.
Fontana says "Older infrastructure needs repair and it's almost impossible to maintain these pipes. You can't just our oil down and water your water shutoff vales. You just can't do these types of maintenance things that you could do inside the home. And you never really know when it's gonna break. So that's the problem. If you get a new line it will last you 50 years. But if you don't know how old your line is and it's older than ten - fifteen, 20 years, I'd get the insurance."
You can apply for that insurance by using the city's 3-1-1 line for residents at City Hall or contact a council member.