A city crew showed up at our home unannounced at 8AM this morning (Friday) and told us that they needed to perform a routine maintenance of our water supply, specifically, replacement of our water meter. We did not request this, nor were we given any advance notice of this work. The crew told us it would take a few minutes to disconnect our water supply, swap in a new water meter, and reconnect our supply. In the process of making the swap, the supply line connector broke and the crew was unable to fix it. I was told that in order to complete the task they would need to dig up the street and make a new connection to the street main. However as this requires notification of other utility suppliers there is a legally binding minimum of 48 hours necessary before they can begin to do any street digging. The 48 hours does not include the weekend. Therefore work on restoring our normal municipal water service will not begin until at least noon next Tuesday, which is 48 hours from noon Friday (excluding Saturday and Sunday). It is not clear at this point how long the service reconnection work will actually take once the project starts.
Needless to say, I am flabbergasted at this sequence of events. I have spoken with the water department supervisor as well as the utility community service liaison. While they are sympathetic, there appears to be little that can be done to resolve this situation more quickly. In the meanwhile we are experiencing sub-standard water pressure. I assume our neighbor’s home is affected by lower pressure as well, since we are both sharing the same supply feed line. This is an inconvenience, of course, and the garden hose running from one house to another across our front walkway is a hazard. The CPA Utility crews working on the problem on Friday had a grand old time, yucking it up and joking around for 4 hours until lunchtime, when they decided the problem was unsolvable without street excavation, after which point they departed. I guess they were looking forward to a Friday afternoon of light duty ahead of the weekend.
Apparently the water meter replacement program is an ongoing project based upon the ages of the water meters, and other houses’ meters are being replaced. It occurs to me that other homes in our neighborhood and elsewhere in the city might be on the list, and the next home that experiences what we are experiencing could be yours.
I would encourage each of you to contact the water supervisor, Brian (last name unknown) at 496-6982 as well as the utility community liaison Debra Katz at 329-2474, and let them know that you do not want what happened to us to happen to you. Here are some specific points you might want to make if you decide to contact them:
1. Is my home scheduled to have its water meter replaced? If so, when, and how much advance warning will I get of the swap?
2. Is my water meter identified as a “problem meter”? (Ours was, apparently, due to its location and the presence of tree roots.) If so, what precautions are you taking to ensure that there is no extended interruption of our normal water service? For example, do you plan to initiate the excavation order at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled meter swap in case there is a problem that requires street digging?
3. If you are planning to swap my meter (and you do not plan to obtain prior authorization to excavate 48 hours ahead of time), I demand that you perform the work on a Monday or a Tuesday (and not in front of a holiday) so that if a digging permit (requiring a 48 hour wait time before starting the project) is necessary I won’t have to deal with the extra days of normal service interruption due to the weekend or a holiday.
4. If you plan on jury-rigging a garden hose from my neighbor's water spigot to my water spigot in order to provide me with water how are you going to ensure that I and my neighbor do not have to endure sub-standard water pressure for an extended period of time? Additionally, what is the history of the hose you are using? Since I will be bathing in, doing laundry in, washing dishes in and drinking this water, I'd like to know if this rubber hose is certified as safe and that it has not been used previously in the transfer of chemicals or sewage. Finally, how are you going to implement this kludge system without creating a hazard for physically disadvantaged residents and their guests?
I urge you to make the phone calls to the utility contacts provided above. There is nothing that can be done to resolve this mess for us (or our next door neighbor), but if the utility gets a flood of calls from concerned neighbors it might prompt them to institute policies and practices that could prevent a similar situation for someone else in the future. Good Luck!!!