HomeServe and M.U.D. Help Family Replace Lead Water Line

HomeServe and M.U.D. Help Family Replace Lead Water Line

Danielle W. of Omaha was headed home on a weekday afternoon after work with her children when she turned onto her street and saw there had been a substantial change from when her family had left that morning – the street had been dug up.

“We hadn’t had a problem (with water service),” she said. “We came home on a Tuesday night and the street was dug up and there was a note on the door that the water had been turned off and wouldn’t be turned back on.”

Danielle learned that her local utility, Omaha Metropolitan Utility District, had a report of a water main break, and, when M.U.D. investigated the problem, they realized that her home’s water service line had a major leak. The rest of her neighbors received a note that their water was temporarily shut off. However, Danielle’s water would remain off because her water service line was made of lead.

Although some homeowners are unaware of it, in most communities, the homeowner is responsible for maintaining and repairing their utility service connections, usually either from the property line or the customer’s side of the meter. Additionally, most communities don’t allow lead lines to be repaired, because studies have shown that such repairs can cause the lead levels in the home’s drinking water to spike and stay high for extended periods. Most communities require that a damaged lead water service line be completely replaced because of the danger lead in water presents.

This was the exact situation that Danielle and her family found themselves in.

“A water main break had been called in by one of our customers,” Megan Walter, M.U.D. Manager of Customer Experience, said. “Upon closer inspection, we realized it was not a water main break. It was a significant leak on the privately owned lead water line. Since the line is owned by the customer, M.U.D.’s hands are tied. We had to disconnect the water at the main.”

“We talked with our parents about helping us, we had a little bit in savings and would probably have to do something with credit,” Danielle said. “We were just trying to mash together a couple of ideas.”

Although Danielle and her family had lived in the home for more than a decade, she had no idea that her water service line was lead.

“The next day, we received a call from M.U.D.,” Danielle said. “Later on, this wonderful man, Mike, called and talked to us about getting us some help. I don’t even know how they got our name, but I refer to Megan and Mike as our guardian angels.”

M.U.D. set up a temporary connection between the main and Danielle’s home while the family considered their options. They had looked for a plumber to replace the line, and estimates were coming in at $16,000.

“We talked with our parents about helping us, we had a little bit in savings and would probably have to do something with credit,” Danielle said. “We were just trying to mash together a couple of ideas.”

However, M.U.D. was already on the case. Megan Walter had reached out to HomeServe, which the utility had partnered with to both offer optional emergency home repair plans to shield homeowners from the unexpected expense of an emergency repair and educate them about their service line responsibilities.

Another feature of the partnership was the creation of a special fund that Omaha M.U.D. and HomeServe set up specifically to replace lead service lines in the community, and Danielle’s repair was eligible to be covered.

"Instead of telling customers there is nothing we can do to help them, we have more options, and we are very grateful to have those options,” Megan said. “We appreciate the partnership and the flexibility of being able to help our customers.”

That flexibility allowed HomeServe to dispatch a local, licensed and insured local contractor, A Raymond Plumbing, to Danielle’s home to replace her water service line, and the $9,250 cost was covered through the special lead service line replacement fund.

“(Without the special fund), this customer would have had to call local plumbers and handle the entire cost of the replacement on their own,” Megan said.

“I’m so grateful to HomeServe and M.U.D.,” Danielle said. “I already have people who are getting (HomeServe plans) because they’ve heard our story. I’m overwhelmed by the help that was provided, and I’m so grateful that they were willing to help.”

Overall, the M.U.D program has been a success since it began in 2020. Megan explained the rationale behind it, “M.U.D. wanted to make homeowners aware of the fact they own the water service line from the corporation to the meter. We wanted to give them an opportunity at an optional coverage plan to protect these lines and themselves from costly repairs. HomeServe offers an affordable plan for our customers, and we appreciate the partnership. Customers now have an affordable way to protect themselves from the high cost of fixing and/or replacing their water service line.”

Published May 19, 2023

HomeServe USA