I found this post while searching for something else but I have a story that may help someone. 4 years ago we purchased a park that was bleeding money in sewer costs. The expense was so bad that the owner was behind on taxes and was desperate to sell. The owner was a terrible operator and was doing things illegally so his actions were clearly hurting his relationship with the Township and Municipal Authority.
The park had clay sewer pipes and I heard all the typical stories like: “…your sewer lines are collapsed everywhere…,” “…you’ll need to replace all the sewer lines…,”"…the township is going to demolish that park…" etc.
After many discussions with the Township and Municipal Authority, I determined that the Municipal Authority had attached a meter to one of the sewer mains and was billing separately for sewer rather then the typical water consumption = sewer consumption scenario. The park was using as much as 500,000 gallons of sewer per month versus 150,000 gallons of water. However, in recent months the sewer usage had actually dropped below the water usage! But, the Municipal Authority had reverted to the water consumption = sewer consumption scenario for those months with the plan of billing individually again once the sewer consumption rose again.
I questioned why they were doing this because it only seemed fair that if they were billing separately for sewer, that they stay consistent with that policy. The Municipal Authority’s Supervisor informed me that “they would never bill sewer consumption less than water, only vice versa.” Hmmm…interesting take. I asked where the meter was located and to my surprise, I was told it was located in a manhole located in a local community park over 100 yards off the property line. Hmmm…another interesting finding. I asked when the meter had last been calibrated and was told, “recently.” But, no date was given to me and the name of the company doing the calibration was not provided. Lastly, I asked why they started metering the sewer in the first place. I was told that the Municipal Authority’s sewer plant had become “overburdened” so they had to look into it. I then asked if they had noticed in recent month’s that the plant was operating more efficiently since the park’s sewer usage had dropped by 400%. The supervisor’s response was, “No, we wouldn’t notice any difference with only 400,000 gallons…” Wow. I couldn’t even believe he admitted it…but he did.
I played dumb and and responded, “that’s interesting…I would have thought that since the plant was overburdened several years ago by the park’s broken sewer lines, that the recent drop in sewer consumption would have been noticeable?” Crickets.
The Township would not approve the sale unless we had the entire sewer lines inspected. After this was completed, I met with the company who performed the inspection and I watched all 1,200 linear feet of video footage. To everyone’s surprise, there was no sewer line collapse. In fact, the only thing that was found was some root intrusion at the joints which would be customary for any 50 year old sewer line. The inspector informed me that the sewer mains were actually in good shape and that he didn’t see any issues.
The Township approved the sale and we bought the park. The sewer meter was discontinued, Water and sewer bills went back to normal. We have had zero issues with the sewer main. Every so often, I’ll lift up a manhole to check the flow and never once have I seen anything concerning. In fact, most times when I check it, it’s bone dry.
For anyone in a similar situation, my advice would be to “ALWAYS challenge the assumption.” Unless you’ve been inside those sewer mains, you don’t know. Spend the money and get them inspected. Arm yourself with data and surround yourself with experts and professionals who support your findings.