Lateral Line Blues on Indian Queen

UPDATED 3/25: See latest info at the end of the article!

So wow what a bombshell Julie Camburn dropped at the end of Monday’s general EFCC meeting:  20 houses on Indian Queen Lane without water for, like, two weeks!

Apparently, a lateral line blew or something? And the Philadelphia Water Department says repairs are on the homeowners. Julie called for Council to take a stand against PWD for failing to install the pipes correctly in the first place 15 to 18 years ago, leading to the present hardship on these neighbors.

Who? What? Where?  We asked around to try to figure out where these homes were, and get some more information. We soon spoke with Stacie Rogers at 3571 Indian Queen Lane — she and her three kids have been without water for 19 days to date.

According to Stacie, “The water department told us that since it wasn’t the main pipe, we’re responsible for it if it freezes and bursts. So they want us to get our own plumber and to pay for the permit to dig up the ground to get to the pipe.”

Stacie maintained, as Julie said, that when PWD put the pipe years back, they didn’t put it down far enough “to get below the freeze line.” (??)

Stacie’s not sure how many of her neighbors have been affected — a leg infection has made it hard for her to get outside to keep informed. She knows she wasn’t the only one, but hasn’t heard how everyone else has been dealing (although she occupies a twin home, she doesn’t know if her attached neighbor has water or not).

Of course we followed up with the water company!  Neither PWD representative we spoke with (Paul Fugazzotto & Laura Copeland) could tell us specifically how many Indian Queen Lane houses had experienced recent pipe issues — not everyone reports lateral line bursts, since they are the homeowner’s responsibility. Both agreed the number was about 4 to 6 homes.

Both also expressed dismay over how common burst pipes are during bitterly cold spells like we’ve had lately. PWD has sent out two inspectors already to check and double-check that IQL’s water main has not been damaged or compromised or rigged weird or anything (note: they disagree the pipes were installed wrong).

After a thorough review when problems were first reported February 20th, PWD sent an additional team out to follow up on reports from Councilman Curtis Jones’ office about running water down Indian Queen Lane (determined to be snow melt).

Unfortunately for Stacie, PWD’s investigations indicate leaks in the lateral line leading from the property to the main line. By city code, the homeowner is responsible for such repairs.

With no running water, Stacie and her kids have been trying hard to maintain some sense of routine while missing such a basic necessity for daily living: laundromats, microwaved meals, showering at her mom’s.

And bottled water! A case of donated water she received is running low, but Stacie doesn’t have thousands of dollars on-hand to cover repairs to get her faucets going again.

For the sake of her children, she called DHS in case maybe she’d qualify for help but unfortunately she’s not eligible.

What to do? A call to 311 recommended PWD’s assistance plan called “HELP” — Homeowners Emergency Loan Program, as well as other assistance plans provided on their website.

For cases of greater need, they suggested LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), a federal grant program.

What’s the real story here? We’d like to find other Indian Queen Lane homeowners affected by the burst pipes. If this issue concerns you or someone you know:  we’d love to talk to you, and hear more of this story.

We’re also scrambling to meet with Stacie again as soon as possible to better report her current needs and situation (and perhaps help her complete forms or file online).

Maybe we can crowd-source solutions from the community?

Seeking local plumbers and handy folks for advice and assistance. Businesses with supplies or resources. Neighbors offering respite or support for this East Falls family, dealt a rough blow this Winter.

If you can help Stacie:  Give a shout in the comments below or on Facebook (or email us…), and we’ll put you guys in touch.

Please follow & share Stacie’s story of community support and creative thinking we’re hoping will soon emerge…

Thanks for your positive interest in East Falls!

UPDATE (3/12): Our scheduled interview for today with Stacie had to be postponed. She told us early this afternoon that she’s too sick to meet with us. We plan to contact her tomorrow to reschedule.

Since we were in the IQL vicinity when we spoke with her, we decided to knock on some doors to see if we could figure out exactly how many homes have been affected (the reports we’ve heard place it anywhere from 4 to 20).

We spoke with five residents in the immediate vicinity of Stacie’s home (a few doors away on either side of 3571 — unfortunately, no one was home on the other side of her twin, 3573).

None of the residents has experienced any water service disruption, or knew anyone besides Stacie who was out of water. One neighbor said she heard 11 homes had been affected but could not tell us which ones they were. Please let us know if you hear anything…

UPDATE (3/25):

Dazed and Confused

We’d love to report that this issue has been resolved, but we’ve been unable to determine exactly what, if anything, has happened on IQL. And the mystery has only deepened in recent weeks.

We’ve been unable to reach Stacie Rogers, the one person who seems to have been affected. We left her a voicemail over a week ago offering help from neighbors (showers, laundry, bottled water) and information about public agencies that may be able to help, but have yet to receive a response.

We next reached out to Julie Camburn, who first announced that “10-20” houses were without water on IQL at the March EFCC meeting. (She’s been unable to provide any further information.)

Thanks to all the neighbors who have offered their support and good wishes. We’ll update our report if/when Stacie responds to us. In the meantime, perhaps we’ll hear more from the Fallser about this issue?



    • My house was affected by the frozen water pipe syndrome. The pipes have not burst, they are frozen and since they are frozen you do not have water. The pipes defrost as the weather gets warmer.

      The water department put in a new water main
      and new lateral pipes on Indian Queen Lane about 18 years ago, at least 7 houses had frozen water pipes about a year or two after this work was completed Before that point in time people did not have frozen pipe problems. My basic complaint is PWD did not put the new lateral pipes in below the frost line in some areas on the street. I feel they should fix
      these pipes since they did not put them deep enough in the ground to begin with.

      So every winter depending if cold enough, my pipes may freeze or not.

      I wanted to let you know the pipes aren’t burst only frozen but they were the pipes put in 18 years by PWD. I know
      they have denied it all these years but that is the only story that makes sense. I know of at least 7 houses who have been affected more than once over these past 18 years.

      • The new water main was installed in 1992.

        In 1993 my pipes froze along with 26 other houses on IQL.

        Not knowing the issue, I had a new curb to house service put in to fix the problem. Unfortunately, there was no water coming in from the street – – the pipes were frozen in the middle of the street.

        I also spoke with Councilman Nutter’s office, who referred me to the Roxborough Review. They ran an article about the issue.

        After speaking directly with the water commissioner, PWD sent out a welder to defrost our pipes by shocking them.

        We followed up with the city asking them to fix the pipes. They came out and measured the depth of everyone’s service at the curb and determined that our services were not to code and that’s why our pipes froze. (Please note that we know this wasn’t the case for my house).

        In 2000, my pipes froze again. This time I made a deal with the PWD engineer we had worked with in 1993. PWD would dig up my pipes in the middle of the street, and if they were to code, I would pay for the work and if they were not to code, they would pay. THE PIPES WERE ONLY SIX INCHES UNDER THE PAVEMENT.

        Sadly I still have issues because there are two “loops” in the pipe and they only got the first one. I run my water the entire winter to prevent losing my water service.

        PWD’s contractor definitely caused this problem, there is no question.

        I think I still have documentation if anyone has the energy to pursue this now.

        • I would *love* to take a look at the documentation. PWD has lots of info online for what to do if your pipes freeze & stuff but this situation as you describe iut certainly does sound interesting! Can we start with a copy of the Rox Review article? Google turns up nothing, I guess they haven’t archived that far back. I’m sorry you guys have had to deal with this for almost 20 years, would love the opportunity to help bring some resolution or at least get some facts/quotes down in one place as a step in the right direction. Thanks for following up, please email or even call 215-498-8874, thanks!

      • Thanks for following up! I’m sorry IQL is having winter problems, the PWD has tips on how to help prevent your lines from freezing — have you tried any of their tips, like keeping the water running in one faucet at a trickle on very cold nights, or insulating the at-risk pipes, etc. Meanwhile, we’ll hopefully turn up some info when we look into the 1993 Rox Review article, stay tuned.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.