Residents struggling to recover more than a year after Philly water main break

A water main break that occurred in July 2012 is still a very real problem for many Philadelphia residents. Neighbors say their homes suffered serious damage, they lost treasured personal items, and they’re still fighting for compensation.

It’s difficult for Jim McLaughlin to think about what he lost because of the water main break. “I’m just kind of devastated by this whole thing and it’s very emotional to talk about it,” he said.

McLaughlin said the home he shared with his partner in the Graduate Hospital area suffered tremendous damage. “We went from a perfectly dry basement at 8:30 at night to a basement that had almost six feet of water in it within three and half hours.” McLaughlin said he and his partner “went from a nice home to basically a flood zone.”

He’s put in a claim for $30,000 of damage. Claims filed so far are estimated to be more than $2.5 million dollars. McLaughlin said he’s seeking compensation for repairs made to fix structural damages to the house “to make it livable as well as the replacement of personal items.”

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McLaughlin and his partner moved out of the neighborhood because the struggle to fix the home was too much to bear.

Pennsylvania law caps how much the city has to pay out at $500,000 for all claims combined.

Marla Rosenberg said the water main break did a number on her home too. “The city did replace our water heater — the Water Department replaced our water heater and our heater which I think they did for most of the residents that lost those things.” Rosenberg said she lost a washing machine and a dryer and her claim, including destroyed personal items is around $40,000.

Rosenberg said the walls and floors can be fixed and some items can be replaced. It’s the lost photos, letters and other personal items that she mourns.

While many homeowners suffer damage from different causes to their property, Rosenberg said this was not a case of simply pumping out water and drying out homes. “We have people that lost their kitchens and lost their first floors and lost an entire apartment when it was underwater. It’s something that’s ongoing, that the neighbors, that the people in the community still talk about and that they’re still reeling from this situation.”

PECO and Verizon have also filed claims for hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage.

Residents will meet Monday night at the South of South Neighborhood Association office to discuss the fallout from the water main break.

Politicans who represent the area where the damaged homes sit say they’re working to improve the situation.

State Senator Larry Farnese has introduced a bill to raise the cap for the amount the city could pay from $500,000 to $2 million.

Representative Brian Sims, whose district also includes the damaged homes, is working on similar legislation in the Pennsylvania House. Sims said he has met with Verizon and PECO about their claims and is in continuing discussions with them.

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