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City to replace main near sunken Briarwood homes

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Geoffrey Ryan, the spokesman, said...

By Chris Fuchs

A water main will be installed “relatively soon” at an intersection in Briarwood where eight houses began to sink and crack in late January, a spokesman for the city Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday.

Geoffrey Ryan, the spokesman, said that an eight inch water main was to be installed at the intersection, 159th Street and 84th Avenue in Briarwood, and that it would be replaced “relatively soon” — once the city Department of Design and Construction completes its plans. He could not provide a date when the main would be finished.

“There was a section of main that broke when there was shifting in the soil and that section we’re going to put in there,” Ryan said, referring to a rupture that occurred back in late January.

The results of boring tests performed on the soil near the homes showed erratic shifts in the water table three days after homeowners reported the incident to city officials. In some areas, the table rose as high as nine feet. Such volatility may have been prompted by a water main break, causing the foundation to settle, the cracks to form and the houses to shift. Residents said there was a water main break at the intersection the week that they noticed the cracks.

According to a report by the city, two independent contractors were hired by the city to extract soil from 10 sites, classifying it by physical quality. Also recorded were the number of blows it took to tunnel through two feet of soil, a finding that indicates the degree to which the soil is inferior.

The most unsatisfactory soil — where it took the fewest blows to bore two-foot holes — was removed from under the homes that had shifted the most, according to the report.

It was still unclear where responsibility for the damaged houses lies — with the city or the homeowners. In a letter sent to the homeowners last month, the Department of Buildings told them they would have to hire either registered architects or professional engineers to assess the physical damage. They were also told to file claims with the city comptroller’s office by mid-April, at which time an investigation would be undertaken to determine whether the city should be held responsible.

Reach reporter Chris Fuchs by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:03 pm, October 10, 2011
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