Broken Street Shut-Off Valve

Old 07-31-07, 10:12 AM
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Unhappy Broken Street Shut-Off Valve

I recently tried to shut off the main valve in my house to find that it no longer works. The valve just turns and turns, but doesn't even change the water pressure inside the house. So, I called up the local borough office to have the water shut off by the borough. We scheduled a day for the water to be shut off so I could replace the main valve inside my house, 7AM on a Wednesday morning.

I get up at 6AM, race to take a shower, brush my teeth etc. 7AM quickly arrives, but I still have water! I wait a couple of hours before I call the borough office and a borough employee shows up shortly. At first, he can't find the water shut-off for my house. We look around at some holes on the sidewalk and through process of elimination (Gas + Water), we find the water shut-off valve.

The borough employee takes the shut off key from his truck (this is a long pipe with a "key" on one end and handles on the other end. He puts the key down the hole and tries as hard as he can to rotate it. It's very difficult to move so he asks for my assistance in turning the key. The valve eventually appears to loosen a bit, and the borough employee is able to turn it by himself.

He moves the valve in many positions, to the left, the right and back, but the water inside the house doesn't even lose pressure! At this point, we're thinking there is something wrong with the valve. So, he tells me he is going to consult the local plumber to see what the problem is and that I should try moving the valve back and forth until he gets back.

So, wanting to help, I start moving the valve just as he did. To the left, then to the right. Checking the water pressure inside the house every time I moved the valve slightly. After just a single turn to the left, then to the right, the top part of the valve snapped off and I was no longer able to operate the valve. I'm not superman, so the valve was obviously in very bad shape.

When the borough employee returned with the plumber, I was very embarrassed to report that I broke the valve doing what he told me to do. The plumber and the borough employee scratched their heads for a bit and eventually come to the consensus that the valve will need to be dug up and replaced. They had some other lines to dig up that day and said that they would contact me.

After 5 days of no contact from the borough or the plumber, I called the borough office. They told me that I would have to pay to have the valve dug up and replaced since I broke it. However, I only did so under the instruction of the borough employee. He even left me the key so that I could try to shut it off myself. The valve is borough property, so it is their responsibility to make sure it works properly. Should I have to pay for a valve that was already broken just because a borough employee asked me to help? I think I may need to call a lawyer.
Old 07-31-07, 10:32 AM
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Talk to your city councilman or elected water department representative. Tell him the same story you posted.

Depending on local ordinances, that street valve either belongs to you or the water department. Some cities have the resident own the line from the main to the residence regardless of meter location. Other cities own the line up to and including the meter. You need to know where your line actually starts.

The water department employee was very negligent in his job. The street key should have never been left with you let alone him leaving to talk to a plumber. This is what cell phones or radios are used for. He should have talked to his boss and then gone from there.

I'd talk to some elected folks and then see if you need a lawyer. Regardless, the valve failed in the open position which is much better than failing closed.
Old 07-31-07, 01:06 PM
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Yeah that is really bad luck. Who knows what story the city worker told his boss. Like notuboo said, make sure the town knows what really happened. He shouldn't have left the key with you. As far as I'm concerned, the water dept. should pay for the replacement.

Look at the bright side. At least you found the problem before anything major happened in your house.

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