The Philadelphia Water Department said Wednesday that its call center has been overwhelmed by customers reporting water-main breaks and asked for patience in what it calls an extraordinary year. The department noted it was also now taking requests via social media to better cope with long wait times.
"We have crews working at an almost 24/7 pace right now, and we are attempting to address each issue brought to our attention as quickly as we can," the department said in a statement.
The department says it started seeing a big spike in customer service calls around Christmas and the pace hasn't let up as temperatures have repeatedly dipped. In all of January 2017, it handled 117 water-main breaks. Wednesday, a bit more than halfway through the month, it has had 176 reports.
The department says it is still investigating 170 reports of leaks and is trying to assign them all to workers for inspection.
On top of all that, the department has had reports on quadruple the number of flooded vacant properties, from 34 to 146, compared with last winter.
The department also acknowledged the long wait time — over two hours on average — that customers face when they call.
"To alleviate this wait time, PWD will – for the first time, and temporarily — begin taking customer service requests via our social media accounts."
The department is also warning that it could take 24 hours after a complaint is made to get an inspector to a site, and then days to make repairs to a city-owned water main, turn off water to a vacant property or other lines serving customers.