The sewer the city built
The house where I live on Killington Avenue in Rutland City was once a farm house. When it was built in the late 1890s, the street was still called Green Street. There was no sewer line on the street.
The section around Moon Brook was very rural. My house’s farm stretched beyond several large barns housing horses and cows into pasture that stretched across Moon Brook, clear to Easterly Avenue or beyond. Streets such as Ronaldo Court did not exist.
As for sewage, the house seems to have dumped into cesspools where the material was allowed to leach through the soil. When residences began to get more numerous in the area, the city installed a large sewer that followed the line of Moon Brook. The farmer who owned this house ran a sewer line northward and then westward from the house to cross his field next to the brook and connect with the Moon Brook sewer. That was how it was still going when my parents bought the house and small back lot in 1957. The sewer to Moon Brook continued across a right-of-way through adjoining property.
That was the situation when my father decided to replace the family sewer pipes with some that were much more modern. He notified the city public works department people, who sent someone to install a connection to the sewer that was marked with the city emblem.
In those days the people who did the work were among those who retained a memory of such installations, when written recordings were often not very definite. The man who installed the connection knew that it was X feet north of a certain landmark, and that was all that was needed — if a location were needed.
But, of course, the people who did that sort of work eventually retired and as years went by, they died. Without a written record, such things as a sewer connection dropped from city memory.
Eventually Ronaldo Court was built, with each house being hitched to the Moon Brook sewer line. Both my parents died by the late 1980s, when the city hired a firm to install a new lining in the Moon Brook sewer.
When the installation crew was nearing the Killington Avenue end of Ronaldo Court, I went out to them and said I had a sewer line that connected to the Moon Brook line, indicating roughly where it was located. The crew’s foreman had a city sketch in hand and said yes-yes, he was following the city plan.
But of course, there had been no written record of our connection, so the crew drew the lining completely past that opening, and the people who had made the opening were all long gone.
By that time I was living alone in the house and though I flushed toilets and used the laundry washer thinking the sewer connection was still open, the volume was small enough so that the sewage gradually leaked around the Moon Brook lining and made its way to whatever opening was closest. In effect, though I didn’t know it, I had what amounted to a 600-foot septic tank.
The trouble began when relatives arrived for a summer visit with small children. There was much use of toilets and showers, and the clothes washer was put to use several times a day. As a result, the sewer line backed up the water until it began to overflow into the cellar.
I eventually got a plumber to come, who ran a long metal snake down the sewer from the house along the entire line. When it came to the spot on the Moon Brook line where the opening should have been, a blockage was indicated.
We called the city Public Works people, and they came with an electronic metal tracing device and were astonished to see an indication of the line going under Ronaldo Court. The man operating the device kept following the signal toward Moon Brook, and kept muttering: “I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it.”
But when they dug down, there was the connection with the city emblem on it — a connection nobody in a later generation of city workers had been aware of.
Since I had gone for several years paying a sewer tax without being connected to the sewer, I asked the city engineer at the time if he thought I should get a rebate. He wrote back a nice letter saying that the cost of digging up to reinstate the connection happened by chance, to be just the amount I had been paying over the years. So I decided not to pursue the matter. At least the city paid the plumber who had initiated the discovery of the cutoff.
This summer the city decided to dig a trench alongside Ronaldo Court so as to install a water line leading from Killington Avenue, to where a line ended farther up Ronaldo Court. I went out to tell them about my sewer line, and the amiable crew chief said yes, they had a record of it and had marked its location and would not interfere with it.
Evidently the word did not get to the operator of the backhoe digging the waterline trench, because an onlooker said he saw the shovel accidentally dig up a sewer section, after which it was hastily replaced. You’d have thought someone from the crew would have come to my house to warn me not to run water until the connection was restored. But nobody came, and I’m going to be keeping a close eye on water flow to make sure all is clear on the line, with no blockage.
Kendall Wild is a retired editor of the Rutland Herald.