John Coats said he began to a panic when he found that his basement toilet was overflowing on its own. A faulty sewer line from the street was sending water back into his West Oak Lane home of 37 years, that was built in the 1940s.
Since homeowners are responsible for the lines connecting their homes to the main water and sewer lines, Coats worried about the cost.
“The fear was that I don’t have the money to cover this and what if it doesn’t stop,” said Coats, a school teacher.
Fortunately, Coats purchased a protection plan from American Water Resources in 2016, after seeing a neighbor go through a similar situation. He used the program for the first time and the company sent someone out to do the repairs. It cost him $50 for the deductible.
“Within an hour he was finished. Such a relief,” he said.
Now local homeowners will have access to the same protection for even less.
The Philadelphia Energy Authority announced on Wednesday a new partnership with American Water Resources that will provide 475,000 eligible homeowners an affordable water and sewer line protection plan for about $8 a month. American Water Resources is a subsidiary of American Water, the nation's largest publicly traded water and wastewater utility company.
The plan has no deductibles or dollar limit on covered claims, and it is secured by the energy authority.
In a city where some of the pipes date back to the 19th century and the homes are a median age of 93-years-old, such a service could be a godsend to homeowners. Big repairs like fixing a water line can be a major burden to low and fixed-income homeowners and in some cases, can lead to foreclosure.
The program, City Councilwoman Cherelle Parker said, is "another tool in our toolbox to provide Philadelphians with the resources they need to preserve their homes and ultimately stabilize our neighborhoods.”
WHYY is one of 21 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on solutions to poverty and the city’s push toward economic justice. Follow us at @BrokeInPhilly