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January 17, 2018

Philadelphia Water Department working at frantic pace to make service calls

The brutal cold spell that settled into Philadelphia late last year and lingered into the new year is still wreaking havoc on Philadelphia's water-supply infrastructure.

Numbers released Wednesday by the Philadelphia Water Department show just how enormous an impact the winter weather has had on customers throughout the city. Service technicians from the water department are struggling to keep up with calls, evidenced by news reports of cars trapped in a flood of ice.

"Beginning around Christmas day, the Philadelphia Water Department saw a significant increase in customer service calls, and the call volume and backlog has unfortunately continued to grow," the department said in a statement.

Compared to last year's volume of service calls, this year's events have earned the caution and weather emergency designations they received.

During the entire month of January 2017, PWD had a total of 117 water main breaks. Through the first half of January 2018, that number was already up to 176.

The department said it still has 170 leak investigations outstanding.

Here's a comparative breakdown of the numbers from this year and last year.


• 212 water main breaks repaired
• 146 services shut off at vacant properties causing flooding
• 335 notices of defect served on customer service lines
• 440 leak investigations needed
• 1,087 calls for leaks reported


• 101 water main breaks repaired
• 34 services shut off at vacant properties causing flooding
• 204 notices of defect served on customer service lines
• 186 leak investigations needed
• 438 calls for leaks reported

To address the backlog of phone calls at the customer service line — residents are waiting an average of two hours to get through to a representative — PWD is will begin to accept customer service requests from its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Due to the surge in leak reports, customers are advised to expect wait times of 24 hours or more from the initiation of a complaint to the time an inspector comes to assess the problem. Repairs could then take several days as crews determine how and when to approach the job with the least disruption to the surrounding neighborhood.

"We also remind homeowners that a broken service line is their responsibility to fix and get repaired, and they will be served a Notice of Defect to make the repairs," the department said. "Customers should call licensed and registered plumbers if they know they have a broken service line to turn these off and make repairs."

Tips to help protect home infrastructure and unfreeze pipes for the remainder of the winter can be found here.