Texas man’s bathrooms ruined after neighborhood construction by contractor

KXAN (AUSTIN) – It’s Laundry Day for Sean Josephs. So he put his clothes in a bag, jumped into the truck, and went to someone else’s house to do the laundry.

“It was like I came home from college,” Josephs said.

Back at his home in Wells Branch, Josephs does have a working washer and dryer, but he can’t use them because of some major problems with his plumbing since September.

“Suddenly, I could hear the gurgling of the sink downstairs,” Josephs said. “All I could see was water coming out of the toilet, out of the bolts.”

Sewage also flows into the bathtub. He said contaminated water flooded two of his bathrooms and one bedroom.

“The entire first floor of my house smells like a sewage pump,” he said. “They basically had to cut about a foot and a half from the entire floor,” Josephs said, referring to the drywall.

Josephs said he was later told by a plumber that the drain leading to his front yard was broken and would cost nearly $9,000 to fix.

He said his municipal utility district confirmed that AT&T was working in his community.
Josephs contacted AT&T and Sedgwick, the company that handles AT&T claims. Sedgwick wrote back, “said my request was denied and that AT&T is not doing any work in my area,” Josephs said.

“I was basically no further today than when the problem started,” Josephs said a few weeks later.

“I can’t do laundry, I really can’t use my toilet,” he added.

His repairs were also put on hold because he didn’t want to start repairs while the sewer pipes were still broken.

Josephs contacted KXAN Investigates. Investigator Mike Rush contacted AT&T. The company is laying high-speed fiber nearby, a spokesman wrote in a statement. Although its contractors required marking underground facilities, Josephs’ sewers did not.

Shirley Ross, district manager for the Wells Branch Municipal Utilities District, said the area did mark utilities.

“We mark district-owned lines to provide approximate locations where lines are underground,” Ross wrote. “We don’t mark the location of the dedicated line on the homeowner’s property.”

That’s standard practice that contractors should know, Ross said.

AT&T told KXAN Investigates that its contractors have been trying to contact Josephs to assist with repairs and restore any impact from their work, and Josephs said he never heard from them.

Still, three days after Rush contacted AT&T, the contractor showed up and fixed the outage at no cost to Josephs.

“The KXAN team was able to push it through, you know, it actually made something happen to me, so I’m so grateful,” Josephs said.

As for the damage to his house, Josephs said his homeowners insurance is taking care of that. He didn’t urge AT&T to pay back the deductible he paid.

In addition to marking utilities, the Wells branch, the Municipal Utilities District, said it also provides engineers working for AT&T with digital geographic maps of all area lines.

As a result of KXAN’s inquiry, the utility district said it is monitoring future calls about outages caused by telecommunications contractors to understand how often they occur and to help residents resolve issues quickly.

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