Water Watch NYC

Everything you need to know about water in NYC.


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DEP Service Line Protection Programs – Is it worth it??

IMG_1760It’s time to pay your water bill and there it  is again – that “sign up today” letter from the DEP.

“DEP is pleased to announce that we have partnered with American Water Resources (AWR) to offer a Water and Sewer Service Line Protection Program to our customers. This voluntary program is designed to protect New York City homeowners from the unexpected costs of service line repairs.”

The letter then goes on to explain that NYC homeowners are completely responsible for paying for any repairs to damaged water or sewer service lines that run from their homes to municipal services lines in the street.  The repairs are not covered by homeowner insurance policies – and they are expensive ($3,000 – $5,000 for water lines, and $10,000 – $15,000 for sewer lines.)  BUT the city is here to help.  For $4.78 a month you get protection for your water line and for $8.70 a month you get protection for you sewer line.

It sounds nice, only a small fee conveniently added to your already increasingly expensive monthly water bill.  You may not even notice it.  But really, it adds up.  In a year that tiny monthly fee will have cost you $162.  In fifteen years, it will have cost you almost $2,500 – and that’s not adding in probable rate increases. SO, is it worth it??

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Who are you doing business with?

The Protection Plan is provided by American Water Resources (AWR).  The company has been around for a while, providing similar protection plans to homeowners in Long Island and other parts of New York State for over 10 years.

The good:

  • AWR was also hand selected by the New York City Water Board.  In 2012 the Board issued a Request for Proposals from qualified providers for service line protection programs.  “After a thorough review,” AWR was awarded a contract to administer the service line protection programs.
  • The company has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
  •  The level of service is outlined and guaranteed by the city, not the company.
  • Furthermore, the rates for the program are determined entirely by the City Water Board – not the company .  Since neither will be receiving any revenue from the program, there’s less of a chance of shady rate increases.

The bad:

  • There have been 20 official complaints filed with the BBB against the company in the past 12 months. The complaints include “problems with product/service,” “guarantee/warranty issues” and “billing/collection issues.”

Making sense of the exclusions:

Here are the exclusions that caught my attention:

  • Repairing anything not resulting from normal wear and usage.
  • Repairing anything caused by You or any third parties.
  • Repairing anything caused by natural acts or disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, landslides or sinkholes.

SO the program only covers line damage due to “normal wear and usage.”  This type of damage may be cause by tree roots, rust, erosion, etc.  This type of damage generally happens at the end of the life expectancy of your pipe line – about 40-70 years.

  • Restoring any gardens, shrubs, trees or structures
  • Restoring any sidewalks, curbs, driveways, roads or other paved surfaces that are not required by permit or New York City Department of Transportation rules and-

SO public roadways and sidewalks are covered under the program.  Private landscaping,  walkways and driveways are not covered, but will be backfilled and covered with an asphalt patch.

**ELIGIBILITY:  home must be residential, equipped with a wireless meter reading device, up-to-date in an existing payment agreement, and served by a meter pipe of less than 2″

Let’s talk money

Water line: So the cost for repair, if you shoot for a cheap one is going to be about $3,000.  If you pay  $4.78 a month, it will take about 52 years to have paid $3,000 to the plan.  SO, if your pipe needs repair within 52 years, you will be saving money.

Sewer line: So the cost for repair, if you shoot for a cheap one is going to be about $10,000.  If you pay  $8.70 a month, it will take about 95 years to have paid $10,000 to the plan.  SO, if your pipe needs repair within 95 years, you will be saving money.

Here’s the life expectancy of different types of water/sewer lines:

  • PVC pipe: 50-80 years.
  • Caste Iron pipe: 50-60 years
  • Copper pipe: 50-70 years
  • Plastic pipe: 50-75 years
  • Galvanized pipe: 40 years.

The final say

I’d say, DO IT.  Unless you know your pipe is relatively new, I believe this plan is worth the money and the peace of mind.  Pipes do not last forever and will at some point need to be replaced.  If you own a home in NYC, you have a lot invested in it – you want to protect it, even on into the future.   You’ve probably pictured what will happen to your house in the next 50 years.  Don’t let an expensive flood of sewage and water be a part of that picture.