Source of phantom wet spot on the parkway?
November 10, 2014 12:49 PM   Subscribe

This weekend, a wet spot appeared on the parkway in front of my house and has persisted: it hasn't grown or shrunk in the 24 hours that I've been aware of it. The soil seems to be wet as far down as I can push a stick, so I'm afraid a pipe below it has sprung an upwards leak. Does anyone have any strategies for diagnosing what the issue is?

Public works has been called and is supposed to come check it out. You are not my plumber. I'm in Oak Park, Illinois.

The pavement and the dirt are damp, but not "wet" (i.e., there's no water pooling, no bubbling) and it doesn't seem to get any more wet as time goes on. It looks like you'd expect the ground to look right after someone dumped a Big Gulp on it. It's in the dead center of the lot, whereas the water supply and sewer pipes (seem to) exit on the side of the house. The water turnoff is several feet north of the wet spot, so I don't think it's directly over the supply line.

My preference is obviously for this to resolve itself, but I'm not sure what my rights and responsibilities are. Presumably I'm not free to dig up the sidewalk and parkway even if I wanted to (I don't). I'm not sure where my responsibility ends and the village's responsibility starts. (I know the meter is often the dividing line, but in my case the meter is in my basement.)

Insights, guesses, strategies all welcome!
posted by ndg to Home & Garden (5 answers total)
 
If you draw a line from your turnoff valve to your neighbor's turnoff valve, is the wet spot somewhere near that line?

Calling public works was the best thing to do, they'll have to mark the lines and decide if/where a leak is happening. Usually (I'm in Illinois too), your property ends at the inside line of that sidewalk.

You should be able to check your Plat of Survey to see where your boundaries are. I had a sewer line break just inside my side of the sidewalk line and was told the repair was my responsibility, but I had to pull city permits and etc to get the sidewalk dug up and the repair done. Don't touch a thing until you talk to Oak Park, of course.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:04 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Can you dig a shallow pit and see if water fills it? That's a quick test to see if you've got an active input of water into the soil. The quicker the water fills the hole, the bigger the leak. No water doesn't necessarily mean no leak, but it may mean that something else is more likely.

The sewer and water folks are the right ones to call. If they don't have someone out there in a day, call again.
posted by bonehead at 1:08 PM on November 10, 2014 [2 favorites]


Thanks for these answers. For those following along, it's still there (perhaps growing). I called public works again this morning.
posted by ndg at 6:26 AM on November 11, 2014


That definitely looks like what our last water line break looked like - an odd wet area that suddenly appeared and persisted, despite the absence of rain. We called our water utility company. They did the work of determining which side of the line the break was on - between our house and the meter was our problem, anything beyond the meter was theirs. We also called a plumber at the same time - half for a second opinion, and half because we weren't entirely sure what the problem was or if we would need him. You could try that, but YMMV. I'm not in Illinois and we don't have sidewalks, my meter is out by the street.

We got lucky and the break turned out to be on their side of the meter, so they dug everything up and fixed it at no cost to us. Hope you get lucky too!
posted by geeky at 11:36 AM on November 11, 2014 [1 favorite]


In Illinois, the meters are usually inside the house. Outdoors, they'd have to be 4' down to avoid the frost line and etc which makes reading and maintaining them really hard.

The outdoors part is the shutoff valve post (usually near the sidewalk), and that could be the boundary mark.
posted by JoeZydeco at 12:49 PM on November 12, 2014


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