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Aging water line ruins family's vacation and home

TNS Regional News • Aug 26, 2014 at 11:07 AM

If Las Vegas oddsmakers had calculated the outcome, they would set the chance at a million to one the travails experienced by the Flynt family of Lakemore in June.

How often does a broken water main drench a home in a geyser of water? And what are the odds that only minutes before, the shingles and black felt (tar) paper had been stripped off the roof of the home?

“It’s more likely the Browns will win the Super Bowl this year,” Mayor Rick Justice said of the June 21 break in a 6-inch, high-pressure water line that was caught on video spraying water 30 to 40 feet in the air.

Road Department foreman Gene Taylor said it was the first time in his 39 years with the village that a break occurred with such velocity. It sheared off all the leaves on one side of a nearby maple tree.

“I’ve never seen a water line break that’s gone up in the air like that,” Taylor said.

Although his department repairs about 10 breaks a year in the aging system, 24 breaks occurred this past winter.

About 60 percent of the water lines west of Canton Road were built in the 1940s by the Work Projects Administration, Taylor said. The line running along Pawnee Boulevard, past Jennifer and Richard Flynt’s property on Ithica Avenue, was constructed in the 1960s, said Taylor, who monitors the lines and is responsible for their upkeep along with two other village employees.

“Most of the time we know a line has broken because the water seeps or bubbles up around it,” Justice said.

The water spout that shot from the 2-inch hole sent rocks and debris onto the bare-wood roof. Luckily, the roofer had just gotten off the roof to get more supplies, Jennifer Flynt said.

The water line has broken four times in 10 years near the Cape Cod-style home, she said. The most recent break was the first time the force was so great that it sent rocks through windows and caused water to rain through the house, draining into the basement, where her son and his friends were sleeping.

“Water was coming through the ceiling fans like they were sprinklers,” Flynt said.

Runoff from the roof entered the house and ran between walls, coming out in the most unlikely places, she said: through doorways and around windows, leaving 6 inches of water in her son’s bedroom.

Flynt and her three children scurried around, gathering up expensive electronic equipment until a 911 operator told her to get out of the house before someone was electrocuted. Richard Flynt was at work when the break occurred, and the roofing contractor, a family friend, called and told him to come home.

Plans for a family vacation to Cedar Point that week had to be scuttled when the money was used to meet a $2,500 insurance deductible and living expenses. Although the couple’s homeowner’s insurance paid for damage of about $20,000 to the house and contents and would have paid for their stay in a motel, the couple chose to spend the next five weeks in their travel trailer, which they moved to Clay’s Park Camping Resort in North Lawrence, about an hour from their home. The couple traveled the route at least once a day going to work and back.

“Do you know what it’s like living for five weeks with three kids and three dogs in a travel trailer?” Jennifer Flynt asked.

Eight weeks later, she is still angry it took 55 minutes to plug the leak and is not satisfied that the village has repaired the hole properly. She worries it might break again.

“I can’t even sleep. If it blows again, it’s going to kill my children,” she said recently.

The village’s insurance company offered to pay the $2,500 deductible, but Flynt hasn’t decided if she intends to accept it if it means releasing the village from further liability. She feels officials aren’t taking responsibility for the incident.

The hole was clamped, which is the usual fix, said Taylor, who checks it every couple of days when he makes his 7 a.m. rounds. He said he intends to replace the broken asphalt near the break that occurred in the grassy area beside the road.

Repairing the pipe is not adequate for Flynt.

“I want them to replace that pipe,” she said.

The village is replacing a 2-inch WPA-built line using a $90,000 Community Block Development Grant specifically earmarked for the project. It doesn’t have enough money in the water fund to finance replacing the 400-foot section of the Pawnee Boulevard line, Justice said.

“Our water fees are some of the lowest in the state. They are so low, we don’t qualify for most grants or low-interest loans. They tell us to increase our fees and reapply,” he said.

Although water breaks are beyond his control, Justice said he has compassion for the family due to the unfortunate events and the fact the village is still in fiscal emergency and must account to the state for every penny it spends.

“I realize this is more than an inconvenience to the Flynts. We don’t want anyone to go through this and I’m glad no one was hurt. We want everyone to have safe, good water, and that costs money,” the mayor said.

Justice was one of the first on the scene in June, along with fire department personnel and Springfield police Capt. Kenny Ray.

Both Justice and Ray said they never expected to find the geyser of water they witnessed when they arrived.

“If anything bad could have happened to her, it happened to her that day,” Ray said.


By Kathy Antoniotti - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)

©2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)

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