KXAN (AUSTIN) – It’s laundry day for Sean Josephs. So, he gathers his clothes in a bag, hops in his truck and washes his clothes at someone else’s place.

“Like I’m going home from college,” said Josephs.

Back at his house in Wells Branch, Josephs does have a working washer and dryer, but he can’t use them because he’s had some major plumbing problems since September.

“All of a sudden, I could hear my downstairs sink gurgling,” Josephs said. “I could just see water coming out of the toilet, coming out of the bolts.”

Sewage was also flowing up into the tub. The contaminated water, he said, flooded two of his bathrooms and a bedroom.

“The entire first floor of my house just literally smelled like a sewage pump,” he said. “They had to basically cut up about a foot and a half off the entire floor,” said Josephs, referring to the drywall.

Josephs said a plumber later told him a sewer line leading to his house in his front yard was broken and would cost more than $8,000 to fix.

He said his municipal utility district confirmed AT&T was working in his neighborhood.
Josephs reached out to AT&T and Sedgwick, the company that handles claims for AT&T. Sedgwick wrote back, “saying that my claim was denied, saying that AT&T was doing no work in my area,” Josephs said.

  • Sean Josephs' toilet sits in his bathtub after sewage backup in his Wells Branch home. (KXAN Photo/Mike Rush)
  • Portions of Sean Josephs' walls in his bathrooms and a bedroom had to be removed after sewage spill. (KXAN Photo/Mike Rush)
  • Floors and bathroom fixtures damaged after sewage backup in Sean Joseph's home. (KXAN Photo/Mike Rush)
  • Yard outside Sean Josephs' home where underground sewage pipe is broken. (KXAN Photo/Mike Rush)
  • AT&T equipment in Sean Josephs' Wells Branch neighborhood. (KXAN Photo/Ed Zavala)
  • Sean Josephs' yard as crew digs to make repairs to broken sewage line. (Photo Courtesy: Sean Josephs)
  • Crew working to repair broken sewage line outside Sean Josephs' home. (Photo Courtesy Sean Josephs)

“I’m basically no further today than I was when the problem first started,” Josephs said several weeks later.

He added, “I haven’t been able to do any laundry, I haven’t really been able to use my toilets.”

His repairs are on hold as well because he doesn’t want to start them when the sewage pipe is still broken.

Josephs contacted KXAN Investigates. Investigator Mike Rush reached out to AT&T. A spokesperson wrote in a statement the company is in the neighborhood laying down high-speed fiber. Although its contractor requested underground utilities be marked, Josephs’ sewer line was not.

The district manager of the Wells Branch Municipal Utility District, Shirley Ross, said the district did mark the utilities.

“We mark the district-owned lines to provide a general idea of where the lines are located underground,” Ross wrote. “We do not mark the location of the private lines on a homeowner’s property.”

Ross said that is standard practice that contractors should know.

AT&T told KXAN Investigates its contractor has been trying to reach Josephs to assist with repairs and restore any impacts from their work. Josephs said he never heard from them until two days after Rush contacted AT&T. The day after that, the contractor showed up and fixed the broken line at no cost to Josephs.

As far as the damage to his house, Josephs said his homeowners insurance is taking care of that. He is not pressing AT&T to reimburse him for the deductible he paid.

“The KXAN team was able to just push it through when, you know, it actually made something happen for me so, I’m incredibly thankful,” said Josephs.

In addition to marking the utilities, the Wells Branch Municipal Utility District said it also provided digital geographic maps of all the district lines to engineers working for AT&T.

Because of KXAN’s inquiries, the utility district said it’s monitoring future calls regarding broken lines caused by telecommunications contractors to see how often they happen and to help residents get a quick resolution.