Homeowners struggle to pay for water repairs

August 17, 2011 9:08:17 AM PDT
Houstonians can now be fined for not fixing water leaks on their own property as part of the mandatory water restrictions put in place because of the drought.

But now we are hearing from people on fixed incomes who simply cannot afford the repair, much less the fine. If you have a water leak on your side of the meter you are required to get the leak fixed within three days, but there are a lot of people who cannot afford to get those leaks repaired.

If the city has a leak in its line, repairs can take weeks. Now that Houston has implemented Stage 2 water conservation measures, citizens like Jean Smith have just 72 hours to make repairs or face possible fines.

"We can't afford it," she said. "We are on a fixed income. We can't afford the repair, let alone the water bill."

Smith, along with her 72-year-old husband, first learned of the leak in July and called to get it fixed right away, but there was a problem.

"I had three water companies come out to give me an estimate of how much it would cost," Smith explained. "The highest one was $13,000 and the cheapest one is $6,000."

The reason, according to Smith, is that the companies claim they need to re-pipe her home. With the water meter spinning and no way to pay for costly repairs, the bill is growing larger and larger. Now the Smiths have a turn-off notice.

"We have until the 25th of this month to pay the $594.94," Smith said. "We can't afford that. That's one of our checks right there."

Smith says she called the water department but was told the city does not make repairs on private property.

However, the Gulf Coast Plumbing/Heating/Cooling Contractors Association (GCPHCC) is forming a volunteer response team to help those with the biggest need.

"We want to be able to help those who are in severe need," explained Jennifer Wilkins with GCPHCC. "You can't live without running water."

Wilkins says the association will have a team of volunteers in place in the coming weeks, but is ready to help now.

"We are still in the infancy but we are now able to address people coming in need of help," she explained.

If you are unable to afford a water repair, you can contact the Gulf Coast Plumbing/Heating/Cooling Contractors Association.

Load Comments