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Homeowner and county at odds over broken stormwater drainage pipe

Local News

DINWIDDIE COUNTY, Va. (WRIC-TV ) — Homeowner Michael Mollenhauer has a hard-to-miss message for Dinwiddie County leaders sitting on his front lawn: “Pick up your failed drain pipe.” The sign is placed on the broken stormwater drainage pipe.

“Every day people stop and they read it,” Mollenhauer said.

The sign goes on to read for every day the pipe sits on his property, Mollenhauer is charging the county a storage fee.

“I’m citing them,” he said.

However, the county says it’s not theirs. Dinwiddie County Planning Director Mark Bassett says that pipe and any repairs to the stormwater drainage system is on the homeowner.

“Mr. Mollenhauer has a 20-foot drainage easement that runs across the front of his property,” Bassett said. “The drainage easement that goes across Mr. Mollenhauer’s property is a private drainage easement that has to be maintained by the property owner.”

Mollenhauer never put in the pipe and it was there long before he moved to Dinwiddie County. The pipe carries stormwater runoff from the county into Lake Chesdin.

During a heavy rainfall in July, the pipe broke. The pipe had been running under a private road, Gray Drive, next to Mollenhauer’s home.

“It came out roughly 24 inches,” Mollenhauer explained.

It led to flooding on his property.

“It actually nosed down and caused a blockage,” he said. “So, we had water within two to three feet of the foundation of our house.”

Now Mollenhauer worries about more flooding and the impact on the trees around his home.

“My fear is the amount of water coming down is uprooting trees. These trees are big enough to take out my house. I want to protect my property,” he said.

However, Mollenhauer said the estimate to replace the pipe is $70,000, according.

“How Dinwiddie County can expect its residents to pay for something like that’s ridiculous and absurd,” he said.

8News asked Basset what happens if the homeowner can’t afford it?

“We do understand that this can be a burden on the property owner,” he said.

Basset said the county has tried to assist with names of contractors who can help the homeowner, but that “the County does not have staff or funds to maintain drainage easements.”

Mollenhauer takes issue with this because the easement is carrying the County’s water runoff and he wonders where his tax money is going?

“It’s infuriating,” he said.

When asked if it could potentially be a problem for others in the County if the pipe is not fixed, Basset said “It could be.”

8News reached out to VDOT, Virginia Department of Transportation and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. DEQ said it was outside their authority and VDOT agreed with Bassett.

A VDOT spokesperson said because Gray Drive, where the pipe runs under, is a privately owned road, the drainage easement is private it needs to be “repaired or replaced by its respective owner.”

I am quite bitter about this whole thing,” Mollenhauer said.

Environmental groups tell 8News with predictions of more heavy rain events in Virginia cities and counties are going to have to plan and improve their stormwater infrastructure. There are state and federal dollars available to help.

Community planners say this is a reminder when buying a home to ask if there’s any easement on your property. Legally, sellers must disclose easements on their property during the sale.

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