Leaking plumbing poisons RiverLakes Ranch | News

Delilah Ahadi thought the pinhole water leak above her garage earlier this year was an isolated incident. Then she and her husband were walking the dog and noticed three plumbing repair trucks a few blocks from their home on Rockport Drive.

She learned by asking one of the workers that some of her neighbors’ ceilings were collapsing from water damage, leaving bills of $10,000 and more, often with insurance covering only a small portion of the bill. total cost.

Three weeks later, another leak appeared in Ahadi’s garage two feet from the first. His plumber advised him to start saving for a complete overhaul of his house.

“Thank God we didn’t fix the drywall,” said Ahadi, who along with her husband bought the 1995 home four years ago. “We are planning another (leak).”

Since about January, house after house in northwest Bakersfield, the RiverLakes Ranch has suffered damage from thin copper pipes that suddenly burst only about a quarter of a century after construction.

Her neighbor Pamela Ritchie on the corner of Sealion Lane has seen the ceiling collapse in her guest bedroom twice in recent times. She can’t afford to have all of her plumbing replaced, and although her son has replaced entire sections of pipe, drywall repairs don’t come cheap.

“We just don’t know what we’re going to get to,” she said. “I listen to the drops.”

Copper pipes eventually break down. What is striking in the case of RiverLakes is that the rate of pinhole openings in copper pipes appears to have jumped sharply in a concentrated area.

No exact figures were available, but homeowners and people working in the area say leaks have recently become frequent there, affecting what some neighbors estimate to be dozens of homes.

Owners of RiverLakes have developed theories as to what may have caused the leaky eruption. Meanwhile, no consensus has emerged on what can be done affordably to address it.

Home builders – several were active in the neighborhood in the mid-1990s – are usually not responsible for these problems until 10 years after construction.

Insurance policies usually cover damages associated with individual plumbing accidents in the home, but they usually don’t pay to fix the root problem. Additionally, damage deductibles can be prohibitively expensive, leaving homeowners to bear most of the cost of both short-term and long-term solutions.

The problem seems to be the pipes themselves. Copper plumbing is generally expected to last two to three times longer before failing, as many have in RiverLakes.

Some owners speculated that the pipes were faulty imports with thinner walls than required by US specifications. Others say the copper broke faster than expected due to the chemistry of drinking water in the area.

Bakersfield plumber Owen Garrett said he had recently done a lot of patching work throughout the house in RiverLakes – he called the situation there a “phenomenon” – and he suspected the chemical makeup of the pipes themselves.

The owner of Garrett’s Plumbing Co. Inc. said the problem doesn’t seem to be in the joints, but in the straight sections of the pipe.

“It just seems to have something to do with impurities in the metal,” he said. He added that the copper pipes used at RiverLakes had relatively thin walls, but no thinner than the plumbing in many other homes around Bakersfield that are doing better.

The home builder wouldn’t be to blame, nor would the plumbers who did the installation, he said, because they would have bought any product promoted by the local supplier that “may not have been the best, not the cleanest manufacture”.

Association director Shannon Holloway at Unity Inc., which operates the RiverLakes Ranch Master Association homeowners group, said she felt terrible for those suffering from the ordeal. But she doesn’t have much help to offer them.

The problems appear to have been concentrated north of Hageman Road, near the intersection of Riverlakes and Southshore Drives, Holloway said. She is able to override the parking rules to accommodate people whose lives are disrupted by the situation, but beyond that she is lost.

“You would like someone to be in charge,” she said, “but I don’t know who it would be at this point.”

RiverLakes owner Carlos “Charlie” Yzabal said he hopes someone will file a class action lawsuit, after spending $15,000 to have his home redone after three separate leaks since February. Only he doesn’t know whether the target should be the house builder or the pipe maker.

His insurer paid about $1,000, covering only direct damages. “It really hit us pretty hard,” he said.

Corey “CJ” Van Winkle on Sealion Lane said he heard water running which he thought was a leaking toilet. When it wasn’t, he fumbled until his finger went through a bubble in a wall of the master bedroom closet.

It was three months ago; he’s since found three more leaks, fixing each one himself rather than paying a $1,000 deductible just to repair the damage.

Van Winkle said he’s not willing to pay to re-pipe the entire house, and his insurance company won’t, so these days he’s walking around the house looking for signs of damage. another leak.

Homeowner Denney Evans on Rockport Drive considers himself lucky to have spotted water coming from the exhaust fan in his master bathroom.

The repair was cheap, around $150, but after seeing plumbing repair trucks frequenting his neighborhood, he paid to replace all of his overhead pipes but not the verticals in the walls, which would have cost a lot more to redo. .

The leak in Sandy Spray’s house on Sealion Lane came through the light above his kitchen bar. She noticed it on March 12.

Since then, she said about 10 homes on her street had leaked. This makes her wonder about the rest of her blowjobs.

“The nerve-wracking thing is,” she said, “when is the next one going to come?”