Last week, Dan Garcia, a US Airways maintenance inspector who also rents out property on the South Side, got a call from Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority that water use at his Mary Street apartment building had suddenly spiked.
He assumed a leaky toilet or pipe. But on Friday, when he arrived at the property with tools to fix the problem, he came upon the likely cause.
"I see a black hose coming from the basement," he said.
The hose was hooked up to a spout in his basement and that snaked from his property through a chain link fence to the adjacent property, a brick building that houses three, two-story apartment units. It's owned by a company headed by Davin Gartley, who has become well-known to the Allegheny County Health Department.
He was fined $1,800 last week for running illegal plumbing at a row of townhomes in Carrick that was shut down by the health department after residents went weeks without water and contended with a growing pool of sewage in the parking lot.
On Mary Street, the tenants in that property and in an identical building Mr. Gartley owns on nearby Edwards Way have largely gone without water since around April 24 after Mr. Gartley failed to pay the bill -- for the third time this year. He owes the water authority around $6,700.
But on May 4, two days before Mr. Garcia got a message from Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority, Cynthia Lose, a tenant who had been keeping a personal journal documenting her problems at the Mary Street property wrote a jubilant note: "Water back on!"
"[Canceled] meeting with [the health inspector], told her that Davin worked out a deal and we have a garden hose connected to the house next door," Ms. Lose wrote. In an interview Monday, she said when the water went back on, she gave Mr. Gartley a rent check she had been withholding while the water was off.
Mr. Garcia said he had made no such arrangement with Mr. Gartley and as soon as he disconnected the hose, Ms. Lose's taps ran dry again.
Mr. Garcia called police Friday when he discovered the plumbing setup.
Public safety spokeswoman Sonya Toler confirmed the matter was under investigation by police, but said no one has been charged.
Mr. Gartley, reached by phone Tuesday, said "I have nothing to say," before hanging up.
Since the water went off on April 24, it has returned twice, but only briefly. When it went back on at the end of April, Ms. Lose called PWSA to verify Mr. Gartley had paid his bill. The authority said that was not the case, and sent a technician to shut it off again.
On April 28, following an inspection, the health department sent him a letter warning him that civil penalties would be forthcoming if he failed to correct the violations found in Ms. Lose's apartment, including shut off water. Another inspection was performed Friday and a second on Monday to confirm tenants were still without water.
Jim Thompson, deputy director of environmental health, said Mr. Gartley was recently sent a written 24-hour notice, meaning that if he fails to turn the water back on within a day of receiving the letter, he will be fined $2,500.
Mr. Thompson said if Mr. Gartley still fails to correct the problem, the health department will take the matter to the Allegheny County District Attorney's office, which can file charges.
Ms. Lose said she and her roommate have learned to cope by showering at friends' houses or at Duquesne University's gym. They try to flush toilets only once a day with water poured from cartons.
A senior airman with the Air Force who was deployed in Kabul two years ago, she said, "I never went a day without water in Afghanistan. But I've gone a month without water in Pittsburgh."
Regardless, she and her roommate -- disgusted at their experience -- are moving out at the end of the month. For the first-year law student at Duquesne, the experience has served as a sort of crash course on property law -- a class she had this semester. In her final, there was a question about what a tenant should do if the water gets shut off.
She thinks she aced the answer.
Moriah Balingit: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.