Years after purchase homeowners say sewer line was never connected

Posted at 8:02 PM, Jan 23, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-23 22:02:33-05

Homeowners in a Gold Canyon retirement community believe that their homes were never connected to the main sewer line.

Mountainbrook Village is a subdivision of about 1,600 homes constructed between 1989 and 2003.

Those we spoke with describe a close-knit community full of people who golf, have happy hours, and worship together.

It’s a mix of snowbirds and retirees who live there year round.

Their only complaint, is about what’s been going on with some of the sewer lines.

Marilyn bought her home in 2000. She says in the summer of 2016, she really began having problems with the plumbing backing up into her home.

She called her handyman.

“He came and put the snake down but in the shower he found sand and he said ‘Marilyn I’m not really optimistic about this.”

The line was clear, but only temporarily.

A couple of days later it happened again.  This time she called her plumber. He said they would have to dig up her yard. But first she would have to get rid of the 22 foot cactus in front of her house.  

“I tried the botanical gardens.I tried every place i could think of,” she says. “It was going to cost $500 to cut it up and haul it to the dump which was breaking my heart.”

In addition to being expensive to remove, the cactus held sentimental value for her family.

“My husband was proud of that cactus and just before he died it bloomed for the first time,” she says.

At the last minute Marilyn was able to find someone who would remove the cactus and find it a home to be planted.  Then the days of digging began.

“I have photographs of the man so far down that you could hardly see anybody when you went out the door. It was quite a deep dig,” she says.  

But they finally got to the problem.

“They (the plumber) found there was never a connection to the sewer,” she says.

She was surprised but says her plumber wasn’t.

“Because they'd had other issues like this,” she explained. “They’ve had one since me. It’s in the entire development.”

Her neighbors that we spoke to all have a similar story.  And until recently everyone thought they were the only one.

Neighbor Caroll says his plumbing began backing up in 2013.  Once the plumbers began to dig he found out why.

“From my property to the sewer line is 10 feet. That 10 feet of sewer pipe had never been installed,” he says.

Same for neighbor Lee who in 2014 found she was missing 4 and a half feet of pipe.  Neighbor Roger had the issue in 2005.

“We bought our house as a turnkey--fully furnished. The people literally just packed their clothes up and moved to Hawaii,” he says.

It wasn’t until a recent dinner party that he found out other neighbors have been having the same problem.

"Who else is going to discover that they are not connected?" he asks.

Each of them say they paid thousands of dollars to finally get connected to the main sewer. They want that money back but say they can't get anyone to take responsibility.

Some have filed claims with the builder and Pinal County.

Shea Homes says it bought the subdivision from the now defunct UDC Homes in the late 1990s.  The company says it knows of four homes with the issue, but built just one of them.

The company says it is "unfounded and unlikely" that the homes were never connected to the main sewer line and that the homes wouldn't have passed "municipal inspection."

Shea suggests tree roots or utility maintenance could have caused the problem.

Liberty Utilities services the area and says it knows of 10 missing connections. All of the connections are on parts of the property that the company is not responsible for maintaining.

But Liberty Utilities says even without a connection. some sewage made its way to the main.

Homeowners we spoke to believe Pinal County inspectors missed the problem during construction.

The county tells me it believes the disconnection likely occurred after the original inspection.

Some have filed claims. All have been denied.

In a statement Shea says in part "Our records indicate there have only been 4 claims relating to sewer connections in MountainBrook Village since construction began almost 30 years ago. Two of those claims were received in the last year. We have been working in good faith with these 2 homeowners to resolve their issues, despite these homes being more than 10-15 years beyond any warranty period provided by Shea or even Arizona law..."

We're told two claims have been denied.

The company says any future claims will be considered on a case by case basis.