I've had a small depression in my front yard since I've moved into a house in upstate NY (leaving location vague to protect the water guy), seven months ago. I had always figured it was from a removed tree, and yesterday, I decided to dig up the grass and toss some dirt into it to get it level.

After removing the sod, I tossed some dirt in the hole, and tamped it down. Then I jumped up and down on it -- and it felt like I was on a mattress. Digging down, I broke into a nice deep hole. I could see and hear water running. A sinkhole...

I called the city water authority, and they sent someone right out. The water guy turned the water off to my house, and the flow of water did not stop. He explained that a tap comes off the main, then to a 90 degree T, then a lead/copper wrap, then to a lead pipe, then another copper/lead wrap, to the curb box, a third copper/lead wrap, and then off into the house via another lead pipe. Since the water didn't stop when he turned the water off, it meant that the problem was 75% likely to be at the tap wrap, and 25% likely to be at the city side of the curb box. He also explained that if the problem was at the tap, the city would fix it for free; but, if the problem was at the curb box, then the city would bill me $3600. Really, the city could charge me for any repair since the city code says I own the entire water line, but they have a policy of being nice guys if time and staff permits...

He also informed me that I definitely had a sewer problem too, because the water was flowing into the sewer instead of bubbling up--and the sewer was not something the city would fix.

We put a piece of plywood and some cones over the hole to keep the paperboy from falling in.

He gave me a list of contractors and asked me to call him back with my decision in the next 24 hours. He called me back an hour later and told me that he would be out tomorrow (now today) to fix the problem, and that he would write it up as a city problem regardless of where the problem was. (Note: ALWAYS be nice to the water guy--hold the flashlight, have water turn-off well marked, help him find sewer line, stand where asked, etc... ).

I had asked him if the city could fix the water line and leave the hole open so I could have the sewer line fixed, but he said that the city never leaves an open hole due to liability issues--even if they are going to come back the next day to finish the work, they'll fill it in, then dig it out again.

But, if I have a contractor there, they'll leave the hole open and the contractor can take over and do the sewer.

I have a lead water line, and it would be a good time to get that replaced. The sewer needs to be fixed. The house was built in 1920, and I'm not sure if I have lead or clay line, or if the sewer line is original.

The distance from the sidewalk to the house is about 25 feet. A cement walkway crosses the water/sewer line near the house. The water line is about six feet down according to the water guy. Not sure about depth of sewer line, but there is a basement, and both water and sewer drop beneath the basement floor at the same location. There is sufficient room to get equipment into the unfinished basement in order to drive water pipe from the house to the main.


1. What would be a fair price for a contractor to replace the water and sewer line if the hole was open?

2. How much more if the hole was closed?

Any comments or suggestions would be appreciated.