Forgotten sink hole leaves metro family waiting years for a fix

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Lee Smithson Burd and her family have been dealing with a sink hole caused by a leaky sewer main in the backyard of their home near Ward Parkway for three years.

The hole is so large and so deep that Burd no longer feels comfortable letting her children play in the backyard.

"You could really get hurt if you fell in that hole," she said.

The Kansas City Water Department is the only agency that can solve the problem, but Burd hasn't had any luck dealing with the city agency.

"I'll go through a phase and call and call and call and leave messages for people and then I give up for awhile," Burd said, clearly exasperated.

In three years of calling, she's never been able to actually talk to anyone at the Water Department besides the 311 help line operator.

"I sometimes am given the phone numbers of water department officials, but I can't get any of them to answer their phones," she said. "I just end up leaving messages and don't get calls back."

Making matters eve worse, the sink hole sits next to a KCP&L transformer. When Burd's neighbor lost power three months ago, KCP&L strung a power line across Burd's fence to the neighbor's house. KCP&L promised to bury the high voltage line as soon as the Water Department fixed the sewer main leak causing the sink hole.

Of course that hasn't happened.

So now Burd has both the sink hole and high voltage line to worry about.

"I'm really at my wits end," she told FOX 4.

To be fair, the Water Department hasn't completely ignored Burd. Water Department workers have visited her home several times. The most recent visit was just a few months ago. That's when orange netting was used to fence off the hole, making an ugly problem even uglier.

Burd wonders what she's doing wrong for this problem to have gone on for so long.

"I'm afraid I'm too nice," Burd said. "That's my problem."

That's a sad reflection on Kansas City services if it takes getting angry to get help. Since three years is way too long for anyone to get a hole filled, FOX 4 Problem Solvers went to work.

Problem Solvers called both the Water Department and KCP&L. That very day the Water Department fixed that leaky sewer main and then filled in the hole. The next day, ironically, KCP&L had to dig the hole back out again so it could bury the power line.

But Burd tells us she's thrilled to finally get her backyard back and have this problem solved.

Of course the real question is why did it take three years to get this problem solved?

A Water Department spokeswoman tells us that the sewer main leak causing the sink hole wasn't categorized as urgent because it wasn't causing sewage to flow into a home. The Burd's sink hole was given such a low priority that it was apparently forgotten. The Water Department is now reviewing its procedures to make sure that doesn't happen again.