More than a month after a (still unexplained) main break sent water gushing into more than 75 homes in the vicinity of 21st and Bainbridge streets, the intersection remained a dusty pit hemmed in by orange fencing. And some angry residents — who met with city officials last week about the situation — were wondering if they’d ever be made whole. While the Philadelphia Water Department cleaned and fixed some residents’ basements, others were left to make repairs on their own and file claims for reimbursement. With so many houses flooded with up to six feet of water and mud, claims could exceed the state’s $500,000 cap on payouts per incident. That would be a first for a Philly water-main break; a court would decide who gets paid what.
Philly risk management director Barry Scott told residents he didn’t know if the half-million-dollar tort limit was exceeded — and won’t until next year. “The city recognizes we are responsible for this event, and we are looking to make sure people aren’t hung out to dry — no pun intended,” he said.
That wasn’t much comfort to a resident of the 2000 block of Kater Street, whose finished basement (her daughter’s bedroom) was destroyed. “I need to know whether I will ever be able to rebuild,” she said. Another nearby resident, Alissa McLaughlin, said she lost $32,000 worth of personal possessions, none of it covered by insurance. Others worried about the damage they couldn’t see: possible subsidence beneath their homes, as supporting soil washed away. What if such an issue revealed itself only after a few years? “We frankly will be dealing with some other issue two or three years down the road, and it will be too late,” warned Scott. The city is hiring a structural engineer to inspect immediately adjacent properties. But, he added hopefully, “Our initial indication is, it hasn’t been as terrible as it could be.