HENDERSON SLIPPING AWAY – An underground rainwater drainage pipe passes beneath the home at left and empties into Bayou Amy below the surface. A major failure is allowing water to escape, washing away soil and endangering the property. (Karl Jeter)
Steve and Alecea Bridges have a serious problem that is getting worse as time goes on. They are sustaining extensive property damage due to erosion of the soil beneath their property caused by a leaking rainwater drainage pipe.
The Bridges bought their property at 1003 Canal Street, right next to the Bayou Amy bridge, seven years ago. During last year’s rains the property started to recede from under their house and carport, leaving the concrete slabs unsupported and in danger of failure.
Assuming that the problem was caused by normal bank erosion from boat traffic, the Bridges began adding fill and rubble to remedy the situation. It didn’t help. The sinking only stopped when the rain stopped. Bridges climbed down into the storm drain to look for problems there.
He found the answer. The 30-inch diameter drainage pipe, which was not shown on any utility plan, passes directly under the problem area. Bridges found that the metal pipe is crushed and cracks on both sides allow large quantities of water to flow out, washing away the soil and causing the ground to sink. The outflow end of the 50-year-old pipe is under the surface of the bayou and can’t normally be seen.
A video taken inside the pipe by Bridges shows more problems than just the crush damage at the end. A connection under the road clearly appears to be improperly done and serious leakage is clearly occurring about 50 feet from the outflow end. This suggests that the eroded area could be much larger than previously suspected.
In his efforts to have the problem addressed Bridges says that government entities seem to be passing the buck back and forth with nobody offering solutions. The pipe was installed by the state as part of a 1960s drainage project. State inspectors came to the location and seem to have concluded that the pipe outflow was outside the limits of their easement and is not their problem.
The pipe does not drain the Bridges’ property, it appears to conduct water from the La. 352/Main Street drainage ditch. The current problems are putting the couples’ plan to open a take-out restaurant at the location in jeopardy. To date they have spent about $6,000 in fruitless attempts to stabilize the property. A concrete slab poured to park their camper is no longer usable and the damage is spreading to the adjacent property to the south as well as to the bridge abutments.
Bridges tells the Teche News that a sink hole has developed on the opposite side of La. 352, presumably from a similar pipe failure.
The Bridges contend that it can’t be up to an individual homeowner to repair a failing public drainage structure or risk losing their home, regardless of who knew or didn’t know about the pipe’s existence.
Henderson Mayor Sherbin Colette told the Teche News that state officials have told him that damage to the property is not the state’s responsibility. Colette said that when he brought up the possibility that a collapse could block the pipe completely, DOTD district engineer administrator Bill Oliver said that the state would have to fix it at that point.
Colette said that while he sympathizes with the Bridges, the fact that the pipe was there before Henderson incorporated absolves the town of responsibility. He said the town can’t legally spend public funds on private property.
For now, when a big rain comes – as it did last weekend – the Bridges are stuck wondering if this could be the one that causes irreparable damage to their home.