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Drilling Blind, Telecom Contractors Take Out Water And Sewage Lines

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Candace Matelic arrived home in October to find it flooded with sewage.

"It was really overwhelming," she said.

The culprit, she says, was a contractor who while laying fiber lines through her Fort Worth neighborhood hit a sewage pipe.

Pipe - Stephanie McCoy Cluck
(credit: Stephanie McCoy Cluck)

Text messages show the contractor initially accepted "full responsibility" but when the price reached $90,000, they referred her to their insurance company.

"I got a call from their insurance adjuster who was very nice but said we're not paying for anything," she said.

After a CBS 11 report Friday on a homeowner in Heath whose sewage line was pierced and blocked by fiber lines, more than two dozen viewers, including Candace, reached out to say the same thing had happened to their sewage, water, or sprinkler lines.

In one video provided by Dawna Brown of Balch Springs, a plumber's camera shows his discovery.

"That sewer line has been bored through and crushed and now has this cable running through it," his voice can be heard explaining.

This happens because of horizontal direction drilling that occurs underground. Contractors can't see what they're drilling through, so they're expected to take steps to mark underground pipes in advance to be able to avoid them. They rely on help from utility companies and can use other tactics, like potholing, to identify where other lines are located.

Pipe - Mike Walker
(credit: Mike Walker)

"I thought, oh my god, maybe we aren't the only ones because I hadn't heard of anyone who'd had this problem," said Candace.

Some viewers reported, despite having similar ruptures, their pipes were quickly fixed and their expenses were reimbursed.

Others said they were left with the repair bill or, like Candance, are still fighting.

"I'm hoping that by causing some awareness of this we can light some fires and help people move forward," she said.

The complaints involved various companies, but AT&T, which is doing the work in Candace's neighborhood, is now looking into what happened in her case.

Pipe - Shelley Dunn Nunnelee
(credit: Shelley Dunn Nunnelee)

"Our goal is to minimize the impact on residents before, during and after construction. If construction related issues do occur, our contractors quickly notify utility providers of any damage so that repairs can be made as quickly as possible."

A spokesperson said, anyone with concerns about AT&T's fiber expansion work can report them to 817.466.8515 or for help.

PIpe - Debra Elliott Jordan
(credit: Debra Elliott Jordan)
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