HAMLET — The residents of Lillians Lane don’t lack for excitement — though they wish they did.
Stephanie Crawford remembers a night not too long ago when her dog began barking wildly at 2 a.m. When she peeked outside, Crawford saw a number of city trucks with jelly-jar lights flashing orange into the night sky.
Pipes had blown under a neighbor’s driveway, releasing a fog-like mist into the air and sending the usual slurry of sand and grit sluicing down the side of the road.
“The concrete (of the neighbor’s driveway) was tore up for some good two weeks and some change” afterward, Crawford’s housemate, Noah Tucker, said Thursday. Indeed, the lower half of the drive remains blocked by orange cones until the concrete seasons.
City officials are well aware of the difficulties of Lillians Lane and its water breaks. They periodically send out trucks to repair ruptures and replace the “inferior-grade” PVC pipe laid when subcontractors built the string of tidy brick houses that line the road on each side.
That pipe is 35 to 40 years old, public works Director Billy Stubbs said Thursday. Subcontractors laid it when they built Lillians Lane, one of the the so-called James developments, financed by a longtime Hamlet physician who eventually left the houses to his daughters to rent or sell. Lillians Lane is in west Hamlet, off Hylan Avenue.
“Back in the day,” such developers laid road and pipe — neither of which underwent official inspection — and then deeded them to the city for maintenance. That, Stubbs said, left Hamlet to patch up “somebody else’s problem.”
But the city has had enough. During their November meeting, city council members will discuss a onetime $56,000 appropriation to remedy the neighborhood’s water problems once and for all. The money isn’t allocated yet, so council members must decide whether to amend the budget to include it.
“It’s been patched, but it’s going to be completely overhauled,” City Manager Jonathan Blanton said.
That comes as good news to Charlie and Peaches Jones, who moved to the neighborhood from New York two years ago. In all that time, they said, neither has drunk water that flows from the tap.
Charlie Jones buys bottled water for drinking and cooking — “I don’t take a chance.” Peaches Jones doesn’t go that far, boiling water before cooking.
Charlie Jones applauded city workers, who “come out and they fix (leaks) and they do a good job,” but he’s tired of the mess and inconvenience.
Neighbor Susan Long is less restrained. She has lived on the street for decades and considers herself a thorn in the side of the city — the one who calls in each leak and rupture. She can walk down the street, pointing out every place problems have occurred.
But, she said, “it’s not as much the water (pipe) issue as the system inside your house.” After a rupture, she said, it can take “at least a month to flush out” all of the sand.
“This year’s been the worst we’ve ever seen,” she said. “It’s gross. You’re taking a bath in it. Nobody wants that.”
She, too, is leery of drinking the water, which she said came out of the taps with a yellow color. She buys bottled water to serve her grandchildren when they come to visit.
“It’s pretty nasty,” she said of the situation. “We have a mess down here.”
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673.