The Pryor Times

May 7, 2013

Wipes clogged pipes; who pays bill?

Staff Writer
Susan Wagoner

— Pryor resident Yvonne Crain recently had plumbing problems at her home on North Kentucky Street, but now that the crisis is over, she’s wondering who should pay the bill.

It began with her washing machine backing up.

“I called a plumber right away,” Crain said, adding that the crew from Gibbs Plumbing eventually determined there was a blockage in the sewer line plugging the drainage route from her washing machine.

According to Crain, the crew located the blockage in her line.

“They spent two hours digging out baby wipes and wipes of all kinds that were blocking the line,” she said.

Crain said she ultimately pitched in to lend a hand to the crew, squeezing the water from the wipes and putting them in a bag.

“I had a Wal-Mart bag full of baby wipes that they dug out of my line,” Crain said. “I just don’t understand it. I’ve checked with the neighbors on either side of me and they haven’t had a problem.”

Municipal Utility Department Water Foreman Kenny Smith said Crain’s property falls at the end of the city’s sewer line.

“Unfortunately, they could have come from anywhere,” Smith said. “Wipes of any kind can be a problem. They hang up on roots that might be in the line. The packaging will say they dissolve and they do, but what it doesn’t tell you is how long that process takes.”

Crain said after her line was cleared, the city was contacted to restore service to her line, but couldn’t.

“They had to come out and clear the blockage from the main line before my service could be restored,” she said.

Smith confirmed a problem.

“When we got up there, we did find that our main was clogged up,” Smith said, but added that he didn’t see “what all the crew dug up out of the line,” so he couldn’t confirm if baby wipes were among the contents.

Now Crain is anxiously awaiting the arrival of her bill from the plumber.

“If the city’s main was clogged and it resulted in my line getting clogged, I don’t understand how it wouldn’t be their responsibility to fix it,” she said.

Crain said she’s had problems before, but didn’t say contact the city.

“I’ve had clogs before, but it was just sewage,” she said. “I just got it fixed and went on. I didn’t say anything at the time, but this time I feel like I need to. They (the plumbers) spent two hours on it and it still didn’t fix the problem until the city came and fixed their main.”

Building Inspector Walter Stout said homeowners should contact the utility department before calling a plumber when time allows.

“We will go check the line to determine if there is a problem with the main,” Stout said. “Then we can tell them ‘our line is open and flowing.’ If there is still a problem, then we can tell them they need to go ahead and contact a plumber, that the problem is on their end.”

Stout said there is always someone on call at the Pryor Municipal Utility office and that taking the time to contact it first can save resident’s money if contacting a plumber can be avoided.

For now, Crain waits for a bill from the plumber.

“I know the problem didn’t originate from me,” Crain said. “Even the plumber said there wasn’t even much paper in my line. I’m very careful about what I’m throwing in the toilet to be flushed. I really feel like the city should pay the bill.”

Crain also suggested that reminders about the dangers of flushing baby wipes should also appear periodically on utility bills to remind customers.