Friday, October 10, 2014

Old water lines are breaking, damaging homes all across the country. Our infrastructure needs a New Deal.

(WPA poster, by artist Raymond Willcox, created in Philadelphia, between 1941 and 1943. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.)

This morning, an old water line broke and damaged two homes in Studio City, California (and left 60 other homes without running water). Last Friday, October 3, "The break of an aging water main in San Francisco’s Bayview district sent a river of water down a street and damaged at least nine homes..." (see article here).

In some cases, when an old water line breaks and damages a home, the homeowner is left without help. In Bath, Maine, August, 2014, an old water line broke and caused $10,000 in damage to a resident's home. Then, as is so often the case in America these days, the homeowner entered into the Kafkaesque world of "if-you're-not-rich-and-powerful-you're-screwed." Journalist Chris Chase reported that "Neither the Bath Water District nor her homeowner’s insurance carrier will cover the costs. And the same thing could happen to anyone living near a water main, according to the water district."

The homeowner, Joanne Adams, said, "I haven’t had anybody willing to even listen... It feels bad. I’ve always worked for a living and paid my taxes. This isn’t a way to treat people...I don’t have money for my taxes now." And Ms. Adams' problem could be a problem for a lot of us because, "Tracey King, a media liaison for Allstate, said a standard homeowner’s policy doesn’t cover damage from broken water mains. 'To our knowledge, there is no homeowner product that would cover water or any other substance on or below the surface of the ground, regardless of its source.'"

There are about 240,000 water line breaks per year in the United States, or about 657 per day. In 2013, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave America's drinking water infrastructure a letter grade of "D". During the New Deal era, the Public Works Administration put millions of dollars towards water & sewage improvements all across the country. At the same time, formerly-jobless workers in the Works Progress Administration engaged in thousands of infrastructure projects of their own, for example, installing 16,000 miles of new water lines.

When you consider our aging infrastructure, and the number of waterline breaks that occur every day, and the potential disastrous impact on homeowners, wouldn't you say that it's (past) time for a New Deal for our infrastructure?

1 comment:

  1. It really is interesting that there are so many different kinds of things that can be done to ensure that you are getting the most out of your water lines. That being said, it obviously is hard when your older water lines are breaking. I would be very interested to hear how these broken lines are going to be taken care of to ensure that they are able to not damage any more homes. Thank you for sharing.