Sewer repair gobbles $61K from Troutdale homeowner

Special Reports

Troutdale requires homeowners to pay repairs all the way to the main

TROUTDALE, Ore. (KOIN) — Kay Penton’s house in Troutdale is on Cherry Park Road bordering 257th Drive. It’s a very busy 4-lane road.

And under a long, rectangular patch of asphalt, she buried a ton of cash to replace her sewer line, called a lateral, which runs from her house to connect to the city’s main sewer line that runs down the middle of 257th.

“Me, what do I know about sewers?” Penton told KOIN 6 News.

That meant she had to hire flaggers to control traffic for 3 days. And she had to pay the entire bill of the lowest bid from a private contractor.

How much was that? “$61,490,” she said. “A lot of money.”

It came out of her pocket because “Troutdale absolutely takes no responsibility even though the problem is in the middle of the road,” she said. “Any other town, it wouldn’t be a problem. Troutdale would be taking care of it.”

Troutdale City Manager Ray Young agreed.

“The city has no responsibility to help with any repairs necessary for lateral sewer lines,” Young told KOIN 6 News.

In Troutdale, the city requires property owners to pay for repairs to lateral lines all the way to the main sewer line. But that’s not the requirement in all cities.

Portland only requires property owners to foot the bill to the curb. In Gresham, the homeowner is also only responsible for their lateral to the property line. And in Wood Village, the property owner is responsible for the lateral to the curb or the property line.

But other cities — Salem, Hillsboro, Beaverton, Vancouver — have similar rules to Troutdale.

“I feel bad for her,” Young said. “It’s a big expense.”

Troutdale City Manager Ray Young, October 2021 (KOIN)

The City of Troutdale said there’s another important part of this story that property owners can learn from.

The problem with Kay Penton’s sewer was a dip or belly in the line under the road. It was discovered when Kay tried to sell the house and a potential buyer had an inspection.

Once Kay got the private bids and professional opinions, she didn’t think she had a choice. So she had the work on her sewer line done without speaking with the City of Troutdale first.

“Maybe it wouldn’t have helped her in the end, but it would have been nice if we’d heard about it before she did this work,” Young said. “And that would be another piece of information for the citizens to know, that if you have a problem like this with your infrastructure, sewer or water, before you pay or incur a large bill and make sure you’ve talked to the water sewer department in your city and ask them, Hey, is this really the only solution?”

There are nuances to what each city requires. For instance, while Hillsboro said property owners have to pay for repairs all the way to the main, the city said it may offer to repair the lateral if the blockage is due to a structural defect within the public street.

“If I had realized that the problem was in the middle of the road I would have taken a different approach, maybe,” Penton said. “But I didn’t realize it until after the fact.”

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