I took the dogs for a walk downtown yesterday afternoon. Passing a vacant house, I noticed an awful lot of water on its patio. Normally, that’s not unusual, this being the NorthWET, but it hasn’t done more than sprinkle the last couple of days.
I poked around and sure enough, not only was the house sitting in a lake; I could hear ominous gushing noises inside the walls. I went up on the back porch to knock just in case. Water rushed under the door and over the dogs’ toes.
City Hall is just a few blocks away, so I hustled over and told the water lady what was up. They’re good around here. Before I could even make it back to the lake-house, two water department trucks and the head of the building department roared up the street ahead of me (though they’re not so good that they actually went to the correct address). Once we got to the right place and they verified the problem, they shut the water off at the street.
Chances are the water’s been running since last weeks’ beastly freeze unfroze. It’s a wonder none of the neighbors caught it earlier. So the poor folks who own the place (out-of-towners, the building inspector told me) will face major mess. The guys said they’d contact them right away.
Here’s the thing that made me wonder, though. Before they even shut off the meter, one of the water department guys started fishing around, obviously looking for a hidden housekey. He felt over the top of the electrical box, looked under the mat, and did all those things you do to find a key. (Which, as far as I know, he didn’t. But I didn’t stick around to find out.)
If that were your house, would you or would you not want water department employees — and possibly the local building inspector — letting themselves in to check for damage? Do you think they had a legitimate purpose for doing that? Even if they did, should they have notified you first?
And let’s say it happened to you. And they got inside, whether by key or other means. Would the interior of your house look otherwise innocuous to “officials,” beyond burst pipes, swollen drywall, and delaminated floors?
Before anybody asks why I didn’t just go home, get my meter key, and shut the water off without notifying “the authorities” — aside from the fact I didn’t think of it, the homeowners clearly needed to be notified ASAP to forestall even worse damage (e.g mold). That’s something I didn’t have the information to do.