Neighbors call broken sewer line an ‘obscene waste of taxpayer money’

16th and Pearl sewage line (KXAN/Kylie McGivern)
16th and Pearl sewage line (KXAN/Kylie McGivern)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Neighbors say a broken sewer line is wasting taxpayer dollars. A KXAN investigation reveals years of complaints from the Judge’s Hill neighborhood downtown — of odor, overflow and still no fix.

“There’s been several times where the sewage is overflowing into the street,” neighbor Rob Kohler said.

Austin Water makes daily trips to pump the sewage from a broken line at 16th and Pearl streets and move it to another access point in the line or treatment plant. City trucks have been doing this for three years.

“This neighborhood has been turned into basically a sewage collection station,” Kohler said. “As a taxpayer, it’s outrageous. The resources that have been used for this thing that should have been taken care of.”

The aging line runs under a heritage tree and there’s too much development for there to be a simple fix. At this point, the city is negotiating to secure a new easement for access on private property. That’s where property owner Mike Ward comes in.

“Trust me, there’s nobody that wants this resolved more than I do,” he told KXAN.

“I have been trying to get it resolved. I have offered to donate the easement, so the city doesn’t pay anything. I have been pushing to get the project going,” Ward said. “This should have been resolved a long time ago.”

The city says it won’t discuss details of ongoing negotiations.

“You’ve got trucks coming out at 11:00 at night, you’ve got trucks coming out early in the morning, two and three times a day for almost three years, I mean you can do the math on this. It is not cheap,” Ward said. “This is an obscene waste of taxpayer money.”

City officials admit the process has taken much longer than expected, but they hope to resolve the problem soon. KXAN pressed for a more specific timeframe but the city was unable to provide one.

KXAN is working to get information on just how much these daily trips have cost taxpayers.

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