Northeast Bakersfield residents worry over sinking property

Northeast Bakersfield residents worry over sinking property »Play Video
Some Northeast Bakersfield residents say their property is sinking, and they want answers and help. One house in the 3300 block of Blade Avenue is sinking five inches and the home-owners are struggling to get it repaired.

At Dianne and Bill Lingeman's house, a sloping gap in the rock facade is visible in front. They say the northwest bedroom floor now slopes down five inches. At the house next-door, the resident thinks her garage slopes down at the coroner near the Lingeman home.

Between these houses -- out in the street -- a water "service line" has been repaired twice. Dianne Lingeman says she's called California Water Service and Bakersfield officials for months, but isn't getting help.

In mid-October she sent one more letter to those officials and to Eyewitness News. The next week, the water company and the city sent crews to the neighborhood to fix some damage, but both say they're not the cause of the sinking at the homes.

Neighbors say they spotted a big puddle in the street this spring right over the patch in the pavement where a water company line had been repaired. The residents say that was in 2000.

Jorge Zamora lives across from the Lingeman's, and he's worried about cracking in his garage and driveway. He was alarmed by the water over the patch in the street.

"The water was coming out from every crack in the street," says Zamora. He took home-video of that problem, and also video-taped water company crews when they came out to fix the leak.

California Water Service District Manager Tim Treloar personally went to the neighborhood to look over the situation after he was contacted by Eyewitness News.

"Our investigation has not really led us very far," says Treloar. He does not dispute that there was a previous leak in the company's "service line" to the Lingeman home. At that time the line was repaired with a clamp. And Treloar says this spring, crews replaced that clamp. He says it was a "routine repair."

Treloar says the service line is three-quarters of an inch in diameter -- not a big line. But, residents want to know how long it could have been leaking, and if it could have caused the sinking?

"A service line could cause some damage and it could certainly cause subsidence," says Treloar. "But, it would be very localized, it would be very specific -- and I think we're dealing with more than that here."

After looking over the neighborhood, Treloar thinks there could be a more widespread sinking problem. Treloar says he spotted cracked and uneven sidewalks and driveways farther away from this service line.

Bakersfield City crews came out the week Lingeman sent her last letter. They patched uneven sidewalks on this block, filling the dips with asphalt. In some places, the sidewalk appears to dip down two- to three-inches.

City Public Works Director Raul Rojas told Eyewitness News the sidewalks were repaired to deal with any possible hazard to walkers from the uneven surfaces.

Rojas says he also checked city sewer lines under the streets, and there were no problems. Asked if he thinks there are more widespread sinking problems in the neighborhood -- Rojas said "No."

Dianne Lingeman also only sees the sinking on her block and the street near her home. But, she clearly has a problem at her house -- and she wants to know why.

"I want to know what changed in the past couple years to make such drastic devastation." Lingeman has a binder full of notes she's made on many calls to various officials. She also has reports that were done by her insurance company.

Lingeman says the insurance company hired experts to do a soils analysis of the property. Lingeman says engineers found 5-inches of sinking in some areas of the home.

She says the report states there are areas of weak soil deposits under the home -- soils that collapse when they get wet. The report says there could have been gradual settling over a number of years -- but also notes there were seven years of the nearby pipe leaking.

According to Lingeman, the engineering report says the deposits of weak soil could be getting wet from some release of water, from rain or from watering in the yard.

And the insurance company's decision about the damage? "Not to pay a dime," says Lingeman. "They say it's an act of God." The home-owner is outraged by that, and says next she'll go to state insurance investigators.

Soils engineers told Eyewitness News home-owners with concerns like this can get their own soil analysis. Look for an expert company that will take "borings" and run tests. Some tests can also monitor the levels of the flooring in a home to watch for sinking.

It's also a good idea for home-owners to get a pressure test, to check for possible plumbing leaks.

California Water's Treloar says his crews will fix the sidewalk between the Lingeman's and the house next door. There is a depression of about 3-inches or so.

It's where they fixed the "service line" that goes to the home, and Treloar says repairing that part of the sidewalk would be a good faith effort. "We'll bring that back to grade, though we're really not taking responsibility for it," he says.

Residents say they are not satisfied with the city's black asphalt patches of the sidewalk, and Dianne Lingeman calls all the official response so far "Band-Aids."

Neighbor Jorge Zamora is also still frustrated, "We have reason to believe that we have a serious problem," he says. Residents say they need help and answers.

Lingeman says she needs help to solve the cause of the sinking problem and to repair the expensive damage already done to her home.

"I've taken on a loan -- and if in three months we're here again, and I have to do it again -- I won't live long enough to pay these loans off."