By Kevin J. Ryan

Council Member Dan Halloran held a press conference outside his District Office in Whitestone to inform homeowners about the Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) new Service Line Protection Programs. These programs are designed to provide an insurance policy that covers the homeowner’s cost of repair to private water and sewer lines.

Homeowners are responsible for their private water and sewer lines between the City main, located in the middle of most streets, and the connection to their home. This means that water or sewer line breaks under the street or sidewalk may be the responsibility of the homeowner. These repairs are usually very costly and must be made immediately, or water service could be lost for the entire block and homes or infrastructure can be seriously damaged.

Council Member Halloran’s office has received numerous calls from constituents, inquiring about the legitimacy of the program and how it works.

Halloran commented, “We’ve all worked so hard to have our homes in this community and we all want to protect our homes from expensive, unexpected damage. Private water or sewer line breaks can cost homeowners anywhere from $3000 to $8000. Even a simple water line leak is hundreds of dollars. In this tough economy, I don’t know any homeowner who has $8000 to spare. Damage to these lines can be the result of wear and tear, tree roots, heavy vehicle traffic or nearby construction,” said Halloran. “Like any other insurance program, the Service Line Protection Program could save you a lot of money.”

The Service Line Protection Programs offered by DEP and its contractor, American Water Resources (AWR,) provide unlimited protection for covered repairs from normal wear and tear and basic restoration of affected property. They will also provide an unlimited number of claims, 24/7 customer service, and quick response time by NYC-Licensed Master Plumbers who are pre-qualified to perform needed repairs. AWR is the only authorized provider of these programs, and their services are guaranteed by the City.

However, the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Association brought to the attention of Council Member Halloran other companies claiming to offer similar services. One such company offered protection to only water lines at a higher rate than that charged by DEP and AWR, despite sewer lines being most costly to repair. These companies are not authorized or affiliated with DEP. They may employ unlicensed contractors and their repairs are not backed or guaranteed by DEP.

“These companies are capitalizing on the DEP’s new program and could be confusing to homeowners, especially seniors,” said Halloran. “Just a week after homeowners received the notice from DEP about the Service Line Protection Program, they are receiving an offer from a different company for similar services. Homeowners could easily be misled and not realize that only one of them is from the DEP. We want people to know what they’re signing up for, so they can decide how to best protect their homes.”

“The service line protection programs are a key component of our ongoing effort to provide the best possible customer service,” said DEP Commissioner Carter Strickland. “By informing property owners about their responsibilities and providing an optional and affordable way to protect them from unexpected repair costs, the Programs offer a valuable service to our ratepayers throughout the City.”

The rates for DEP’s Service Line Protection Program are set by the New York City Water Board. They will vary from year to year, but homeowners can cancel at any time. Council Member Halloran indicated that he will enroll in the program, to insure his home in the Broadway-Flushing neighborhood.