The Cape Coral, Florida Utility Expansion Project – Hooking Up

Day One

It’s midmorning and I’m on the computer when I begin to hear the all-too-familiar growl of excavating equipment breaking ground in my front yard.

It’s my day off from work. Fresh out of bed, hair mussed, wearing boxer shorts and a white t-shirt…my plans to take a shower and prepare for the day are dashed with the first ground tremors. R.L. Wilson Plumbing is hooking my house up to the city water and sewer lines. I knew they’d be coming soon, but no one told me it would be today.

I wonder how long this is going to take?

I thought about going out to ask them how long they’d be. But, still dressed in bed linens and cranky from Cape Coral Utility Expansion Project flashbacks, antisocial urges take control of me. I’ve got utility fatigue. I chalk the day up to a loss, shut the venetian blinds, and vow to ignore any knocks on my front door. Please don’t let them need anything from me to finish this job.

The noises grow louder and curiosity gnaws at me. I use my index finger to pull up one single blind for a peak outside. A crew of four or five people with safari hats and shovels are dissecting my front yard. A smallish excavator claws away the top soil and rips a trench through my landscaped flower bed. Large, coral-textured, rocks and shell debris are extracted from the guts of my lawn and placed in uneven piles aside the hole. Most of the work is done by hand…tedious, sweat-inducing, manual labor on the first ninety-degree day of the year. Better them than me.

On one side of the lawn is a trench for the water and irrigation lines. These are two stretches of PVC piping, about an inch and a half in diameter, which lead up to where the water enters our house. I wonder where the water comes from? Research provides the answer: Our drinking water is supplied from twenty-three deep wells, most of which are in the Lower Hawthorne Aquifer at a depth of 650 to 700 feet. The water is then treated utilizing one of the world’s largest reverse osmosis plants, before being pushed off into the pipes that enter our houses.

Another, bigger, trench extends from down near the street up towards the front of the house. This is the sewer line. It’s a much bigger piece of PVC pipe, about six or seven inches across.

Where the sewer once drained into the septic tank, it now flows into the city system and away towards one of the two Water Reclamation Facilities in Cape Coral (The Southwest Water Reclamation Facility or The Everest Parkway Water Reclamation Facility).

A few hours later, most of the yard is pieced back together, and the R.L. Wilson team is gone. Their work is clearly not done yet. There are still open holes. One is over the septic tank, the others are near important pieces of piping. I don’t even think the house is hooked up to city utilities yet. They probably would have let me know. Right?

That’s around the time I decided to flush the toilet…a horrendous air groan emanates from deep within the porcelain water tank and brownish-purple sludge water fills the bowl…Holy Christ, what have they done? Frantic, I run around the house turning on water faucets, watching in horror as air and mud-water spew and gargle from the nozzles. My mind fills with images of waterless days and expensive bills as experts try to determine the cause of this problem they’ve never seen before. My sink and tub are filled with sand and filth. The water pressure drops towards nothing. A slow trickle drips from the faucets. It’s broken. My water is broken. Why does everything have to be so hard?

Instantly, I’m on the phone with the plumbing company, “What’s going on here? I’ve got no water…I’ve got nothing.

You’re all hooked up to the city utilities now. Just make sure you start out by running your bathtub, not your shower or anything else, for about five minutes…you need to flush out any sand that got into the lines during he hook-up. If you run it through any of your other faucets or shower heads, the screens can get clogged up with dirt and you’ll need to clean them.

It would have been nice if someone let me know this ahead of time.

I go to the bathtub and turn on the faucet. Full pressure water and belching air empty into the tub. Once the misplaced air has passed, the water washes the rest of the dirt out, and everything seems to be functioning properly. The woman on the phone tells me the job is not complete yet. They still need to stop by tomorrow to crush the septic tank and close up the remaining holes. They can’t bury the pipes until a city inspector has seen them.

I finish the conversation, hang up the phone, and head towards the tub to investigate the still-running water. It’s clean, lukewarm on the coldest setting, the pressure seems adequate…and it’s costing me money!!! For the first time since I’ve moved to Florida, my water is costing me money!!! “Run it for five minutes,” the lady told me…easy for her to say…she’s not paying the bills.

I turn off the water and spend the rest of the night trying to fix an interior piece of my toilet clogged with coarse sand and leaves.

Day Two

It’s midmorning and the loud-engined truck is out front, with a sluggish hose snaked across the lawn, pumping out the septic tank.

Twenty minutes later, and my property is quiet again.

Another two hours and a small team of men are back at work. Wooden boards are placed in a path across my war-torn lawn in an effort to protect what’s left from the grind of impending excavator tracks. The industrial-yellow monstrosity labors its way up my yard towards a final showdown with the cavernous remains of an obsolete septic tank. The bulk of the underground tank is covered by another mulched and landscaped flowerbed. The mulch is pushed into piles. The black, fabric, weed barrier is ripped up in uneven patterns. The dirt and plants are dislodged and cast aside. The top of the long-buried septic tank is exposed to Florida sunlight and air for the first time since my house was built four years ago. Then the destruction begins.

The excavator stabilizes itself and commences pounding and ripping at the black plastic septic tank with all the raw, battering, force its toothed claw can muster. Repeated blows crush and shatter the septic tank, bringing an immediate and permanent end to its short-lived existence.

With the destruction complete, the excavator speeds down my driveway, and down the street, until it’s out of sight. Seconds later it returns with a payload of clean sand filling its front-end loader bucket. The sand is dumped into the hole where the septic tank once was. I’m not sure where the sand is coming from, but six identical trip are made, and six loads of sand finally cover the fragments of plastic debris which once served a noble cause.

The landscaping is patched back together. The plants are approximately returned to their original locations. The weed barrier, now a death-shroud of sorts, is pushed back into place and covered with the piles of mulch.

The septic tank may have met a violent end, but at least it received a proper burial.

Day Three

For three days the workers have been coming and going, on autopilot, completing the job I’ve paid them to do.

There are still three open holes in front of my house awaiting the arrival of city inspectors. The work must be scrutinized for compliance with city codes before the evidence can be hidden.

I’m not sure when the inspectors arrived, or what they did once they got there, but sometime in the early afternoon the plumbers returned to finally complete the job. The open holes are filled and an effort is made to reduce the visible impact of the work that’s been done.

Before they leave, one of the men prominently places a sign in my front yard. Another Professional Sewer Hook Up By R.L. Wilson Plumbing. I wait until the truck drives away, then I promptly walk outside, pluck out the sign, and throw it in the garage with the rest of my weekly trash. Don’t get me wrong, R.L. Wilson did a good job and completed everything I paid them to do…it’s just that my property has suffered enough indignity over the past 12 months. It doesn’t need any more. My front yard will serve as a billboard for no one.

The Aftermath

My driveway is stained with black track marks from the comings and goings of heavy excavating equipment. Several of my trees and plants are mutilated and suffering. And my front lawn, which wasn’t great to begin with, has been reduced to a heart-crushing eyesore. It may have been ailing before, but now it’s in critical condition and in need of immediate, and expensive, resuscitation.

Two of my toilets are broken and, apparently, need all the interior parts replaced. They fill up and then continue to run, a quiet and high pitched sound with a brand-new dollar sign attached to it.

What used to be free, now costs money. Isn’t that the way every thing’s been going in this America of ours lately?

It’s time for habits to change. Dish washing and clothes washing cycles will need to be coordinated in accordance with water conservation measures. No more letting the water run while I brush my teeth and shave. Less long showers and hot baths. Less waste and more prudence. There’s a balance in this mess, somewhere, I hope.

I’m just glad to have my experience with the Southwest 4 Cape Coral Utility Expansion Project finished, once and for all.

The surgery was successful, but the scars are deep and the bills are high. Now is the time to heal…and pay. And pay. And pay.



Source by Eric Taubert