Troubleshooters investigate why some homeowners turn off water

by Nydia Han and Heather Grubola

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Philadelphia (WPVI) – Philadelphia homeowners have been notified to replace their water meters.

Residents said their water was turned off even after responding and doing everything right.

Three-quarters of the city’s water meters still need to be replaced, but the Philadelphia Water Authority has shut down service for allegedly not complying with mandatory upgrades. At the current rate, nearly 10,000 homeowners could be cut off.

Fairmount’s Keiran Rump said she was quick to respond when she was notified to change the water meter.

“I called them as planned and they came out to replace the meter but couldn’t do it,” she said.

Rump said the technician claimed the space was so small that she had to hire a contractor to dig a hole in her wall.

“And there’s no deadline, especially given that we’re in the midst of a pandemic,” Rump said.

So she was shocked when her water was turned off a few months later.

Bernadette Pitts of Point Breeze said no one showed up when she called.

“I really thought I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing. I got a notification in the mail. I made an appointment,” Pitts said.

She was told her water meter had been replaced.

“So I took their word and thought this was over,” she said.

So she was stunned when her water was turned off a few weeks later.

The Philadelphia Water Department (PWD) isn’t shutting down service for unpaid bills because of the pandemic, but they are shutting down many customers who fail to schedule mandatory upgrades — about 2 percent so far. It might not sound like much, but so far, that’s the equivalent of 2,400 households.

The troubleshooter asked if PWD would investigate such customer service.

“Yes, absolutely. If anyone calls our customer service line and lets us know this has happened, we’ll investigate it,” spokesman Brian Rademaekers said. “The last thing we want to do is turn someone off. It costs us a lot of time. It costs us money. We want to keep your water flowing.”

PWD claims that customer satisfaction is actually very high.

“Our instrumentation program is very, very popular. We’ve had 99 percent of people who have participated and they say they have had a good experience with it,” he said.

PWD said it usually only closes after multiple notifications via mail, phone, bill and in person. On the day it’s closed, you can expect to see someone.

“We’ll actually knock on your door the day it’s closed and try to upgrade your meter there,” he said.

But the troubleshooter obtained surveillance video from the home of an Action News employee. Turn off the water before the technician knocks on the door. It turns out he was at the wrong address. PWD said this was an unusual and isolated incident.

Rupp said the city told her it would take a while for her water supply to recover due to a shortage of staff. Then she contacted the troubleshooter.

“You see, he does have someone on his way to my house,” she said. “He changed the water meter right away, no problem, and turned my water back on.”

If your water is turned off by mistake, please let the troubleshooter know and we will try to help you.

The Philadelphia Water Department issued the following statement regarding the erroneous closure of an Action News employee:

“This unexpected shutdown was the result of human error and we apologise for any inconvenience caused to our customers. Water was restored within approximately 30 minutes of our staff receiving the false alert. Unexpected shutdowns are extremely rare and Not representative of the experience of the more than 120,000 customers who have been upgraded to date. Any customer who believes they have been closed in error should call (215) 685-6300 immediately so the water department can investigate.

Shutdown is always the mandatory option of last resort after all other attempts to fix the problem have been exhausted. When customers are turned off for failing to upgrade their water meters, in about 90% of cases, the water is restored in less than 24 hours. “

List of communications the water department will send prior to closure:

Three messages will appear on your water bill Send four letters to your address Countless phone calls to the number associated with your account on the day of the power outage

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