Amid Drought, Man Tormented by Hundreds of Thousands of Gallons of Water

Jeff Wagner has had to pump water out of his crawl space and onto Loadstone Drive in Sherman Oaks
Jeff Wagner has had to pump water out of his crawl space and onto Loadstone Drive in Sherman Oaks
Photo by Jeff Wagner

As California suffers through a record-breaking drought, Jeff Wagner of Sherman Oaks is having the opposite problem. For the last two months, hundreds of thousands of gallons of water have seeped up from the ground under his house.

Wagner says the problem started right around the time of the water main break at UCLA. But he has been unable to get City Hall officials to do anything about it.

"They just can't give me a straight answer on anything," Wagner says. "They're just denying every point I make."

Wagner moved into the house on Loadstone Drive about five years ago. Around that time, he said the swimming pool in his yard flooded during heavy rains. He repaired the drainage system and got a pump, and since then he hasn't had a problem.

But about two months ago, water began pooling in the crawl space under his house. He began running the pump, which dumps it into the street. Now he has to run the pump all night long to keep up with the flow. By his estimate, he has pumped nearly 400,000 gallons.

"It goes down the street maybe a quarter mile, and into the storm drain," Wagner says. "There's water constantly flowing down our street."

At first, Wagner tried calling Mayor Eric Garcetti's office. But after several weeks without a response, he moved on to other officials. Finally, he got a response from Councilman Tom LaBonge. The councilman sent out a deputy and representatives from the city engineer's office and the Department of Water and Power.

But according to Wagner, they didn't do anything. Instead, they told Wagner that his house is probably situated on top of a natural spring. They suggested he hire his own geologist to investigate further.

Wagner thinks the most likely explanation is that the water is coming from a burst pipe. He lives a little more than a mile from Stone Canyon Reservoir, which is at an elevation about 50-60 feet above his property. But the DWP officials told him it couldn't be coming from an underground pipe because "water doesn't travel that way."

Another possibility is that it is sewer water, but he has been unable to get anyone from the city to test it. Meanwhile, Wagner has gotten a notice threatening to fine him for wasting water.

In a statement, LaBonge said his office is taking Wagner's issue seriously. "We continue to be willing to assist Mr. Wagner in any reasonable way to get to the bottom of this problem," LaBonge said.

But Wagner is losing patience.

"They have to go find out where this water's coming from," he says. "I’m going to make this my personal mission to get this resolved. It’s getting worse and worse."


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