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NYC May Lessen Burden On Homeowners, Change Policy On Underground Water Leaks

State Sen. Avella Says He Will Encourage City Council To Change The Rules
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NYC underground water pipe

NYC underground water pipe (Photo: CBS 2)

johnslattery John Slattery
Our beloved reporter John Slattery passed away on Sept. 25. He was 63...
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For generations, in New York City if there’s a water leak below ground, in front of your house, it’s been your responsibility to pay for the repair, even if it’s in the street.

But as CBS 2’s John Slattery reports, that policy may soon change.

Arthur Collazo recently had plumbing repairs, both in his basement, and out beyond his yard, under the street where his supply pipe meets the main.

“This is where the culprit was, right in the middle of the street,” the 65-year-old told Slattery.

The break, he said, happened Aug. 23, the day of the earthquake. The break was found to be just off the water main, in the supply line to Collazo’s house.

“It cost me three grand. Three grand. That’s money I don’t have,” Collazo said.

Another break occurred in the street in front of a home in Hollis, Queens. The homeowner had to lay out $3,600. It’s long been the policy, since the 1800s, that a break in the water line feeding your house is your responsibility. Here’s the regulation, according to the Rules for the City of New York:

“The property owner, and not the Department, is responsible for the maintenance of the service and distribution pipe and its associated fittings and equipment.”

But State Sen. Tony Avella said it’s not fair.

“The city has to accept responsibility for any break on city property. It’s a simple policy change,” Avella said.

Avella said the Department of Environmental Protection should change the policy, because he believes most of the breaks are due to traffic on city streets.

The DEP said rather than change the policy it is exploring a water service line protection plan, a sort of insurance policy. You pay a nominal monthly fee and if anything breaks, it’s fixed for free.

Avella said he will encourage the City Council to change the policy and may introduce legislation in Albany.

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