In early February, a water-main break on the 1300 block of East Hewson Street in Fishtown created havoc for residents who for a short time had to live without water and other services.
The city soon repaired the main, but for some residents of the quiet residential block of newly built and renovated houses in one of the city’s trendiest neighborhoods, inconveniences and aggravations remain.
Since the rupture, city representatives have returned only periodically, residents of the block say. Meantime, barricades have been set up in the street in the middle of the block, marking the spot of the water-main break and ensuing washout. A city official was last seen on the block Feb. 16, said resident Carissa Arty, and there is no indication that the city has a plan for repairing damaged pavement and other debris that have made the street impassable.
“We have no timeline for repair, no one has been out since the PWD [Water Department] came out to secure the block off [they spray-painted the street to
say washed out] about a week from the water-main break,” Arty said in an email. “It's now March 17th, and we have had NO repair. Our one-way, single-lane street is completely impassable, and now with the snow that never got removed, is now a slick sheet of frozen
Arty described a Kafkaesque series of phone calls to the Mayor’s Office in which an aide who identified herself only by her first name promised to take action and keep residents informed, but did neither.
One resident, Sarah Cullen, was forced to move from her home with her husband, Peter, and son, Barney, 3, when the water-main break blew a hole 3 feet wide through their basement wall and flooded the basement up to the first floor. The city sent a plumber shortly after the break to fix the boiler and water heater, Cullen said, but has largely left the family in the dark about what happens next.
“No one seems to know what the next steps are,” she said.
Cullen’s next door-neighbors, Peter and Kimberly Simmons, said their basement was flooded, which ruined clothing, furniture, and other items stored there. Since the main break, they have kept damaged belongings in the backyard, where they are meticulously cataloging and photographing them in order to file a claim with the city. The city did send out a firm to clean up the basement, but they are concerned that no progress has been made repairing the street and the washout in front of their home.
Arty said all residents want from the city is a commitment to make the fixes, and a timeline for doing them.
“I’ve been on the phone with everyone -- the Streets Department, Mayor’s Office -- and so have other neighbors, but we’ve gotten nowhere,” Arty said. “We are concerned for everyone in this blocked-off area. God forbid they need an ambulance.”
A response from the city came Saturday in a written statement issued by John DiGiulio, community relations manager for the Water Department:
"The Philadelphia Water Department and the City of Philadelphia apologize for the lack of communication and follow-up with the neighbors on this block, as this does not meet the level of service we strive to provide our customers. Our goal is always to make sure our customers are kept well-informed, and they are aware of what they should expect to see and when, following a major incident such as this water-main break. Unfortunately, this got away from us, and we are looking into what our next steps on this block are, and a schedule will be determined and shared with the neighbors as soon as possible."
Shortly after that statement, DiGiulio sent another saying East Hewson Street “will be restored” in the next week, “weather permitting.”