8 Investigates

Water directed off state highway causes sinkholes on Montross man's property

MONTROSS, Va. (WRIC) -- It was six years ago when a landscaper discovered the first sinkhole forming on Arthur Carver's Montross property at the old Coca-Cola building.

"It proceeded to get larger and larger and I realized I had a problem here and it needed to get fixed,” says Carver.

He hired a crew. They tore up the land and repaired it.

Carver paid for it. It was a big job and what the crews found when doing the work was concerning.

The pipe in the ground was disintegrating,” says Carver.

It's a pipe diverting stormwater runoff from the intakes on Route 3 so the busy highway maintained by VDOT doesn't flood.

"The water is coming off this impervious surface,” says Carver.

Carver believes all that water directed underground is causing serious erosion on his property.

"This is what you see on the surface,” he points out another sinkhole.

Carver recently discovered this one.

"You can push down here,” he says showing us how soft the ground is.

To solve the problem, Carver says he'll have to fix that deteriorating pipe and hook up to the intakes on Route 3.  He reached out to VDOT through emails, calls and a lawyer. VDOT did come out and take a look but Carver says he got little help.

"I can’t imagine why they wouldn't want to participate to some degree in repairing this pipe because it is responsible for removing the stormwater off of Route 3," he says.

Here's the reality for Carver and other property owners, VDOT tells 8News even though that drainage pipe is diverting stormwater runoff from a state highway, VDOT has no easement.  The pipe is on Carver's property, therefore, it's outside VDOT’s right of way and outside their responsibility.

"Our drainage system is currently draining water away from Route 3, keeping travelers safe in that region and that is really kind of the limits of our responsibility.” explains VDOT Communications Manager, Kelly Hannon. 

"It is frustrating, it's strange, it's odd,” says Carver.

Feeling frustrated Carver says at this point all he really wants from VDOT is guidance.

"I am a little concerned about being an engineer and solving this problem correctly,” he explains.

After a call from 8News, VDOT officials said they could do that.

"We absolutely can provide professional and technical expertise for him,” says Hannon.

Hannon adds VDOT did reach out and was always willing to discuss the technical details but stresses Carver has do the work.

“If he would like to hire a contractor we be happy to certainly be there and offer some advice and some direction but again it will be completely advisory in nature,” says Hannon.

VDOT also tells 8News a drainage system can include both public and private facilities. Some systems are maintained by VDOT, while others are maintained by public bodies, such as a city or county, or private property owners and homeowner’s associations. 

VDOT maintains the pipe at this location within VDOT's right of way, but on private property, it is the responsibility of the property owner. 

Carver tells 8News he is happy to hear VDOT will at least provide him with some guidance.


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