Water woes

Seven On Your Side
February 16, 2010 9:55:23 AM PST
This family didn't know what happened, one day they had water and there was work going on in the neighborhood. The next, no water. Several city agencies got involved and blamed each other and the homeowner. At Luz Ortiz's house when you flip the spigot sometimes you get a tiny trickle. Other times? No water at all. Making the mundane, like washing dishes, monumental.

"We rinse them off with another pot of water," says Queens homeowner Luz Ortiz. "It's unsanitary because you're not getting germs off."

And good luck taking a bath, "Once we're done we have to fill up another one to rinse off," says Ms. Ortiz.

Luz's water pipes went dry January 13th, the day after the city did work on a neighbor's house.

"They were having an overflow of water. They came in front of my main. I'm guessing they thought it was their main shut it off and they they came back and told me stories like it might be your meter. They changed the meter three times."

Now, bottled water is the primary water supply for her family and her tenants and their children upstairs. "We're dealing with about 80 dollars a day for water alone."

Luz called out the NYC Department of Environmental Protection several times but the pipes stayed dry. So we called ourselves. A spokesperson vowed to send out a crew within a couple of hours. But minutes later, she canceled the crew, blaming a subcontractor for the problems.

The D.E.P. said the Ortiz's water woes are the homeowners problem because the break is in the home's service line. Residents are responsible for the pipes leading from the main to their own house.

But two plumbers hired by the family couldn't make the repairs claiming the family's service line was fine, the problem was under the street, the city's jurisdiction.

But after weeks of our calls and a complaint by the tenants to the city, D.E.P. finally showed up, and tore up the street. And got her water flowing again.

The next issue? The city says it may wind up billing Luz for the repairs. But Luz has pictures showing repairs going on the opposite side of the street. So Luz believes that proves the problem wasn't with her service line after all.

Story by: Nina Pineda

Produced by: Steve Livingstone