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Credit: Julio Sosa

Penn students and Philadelphia residents alike have experienced a high number of water main breaks and frozen pipes this winter. While these types of weather-related emergencies have occurred in the past, the cold weather this year has caused a remarkably high number of incidents for the Philadelphia Water Department.

The Department, in response to being "overwhelmed" by the number of customer service reports filed to its call center, wrote in a statement on Jan. 17 that it has started accepting service requests through its Twitter and Facebook accounts. 

The statement also wrote that crews are currently “working at an almost 24/7 pace” and that customers may have to wait over 24 hours to receive an initial inspection.

Many Penn students returned to campus after winter break to find burst pipes and flooding in their dorm rooms. 

Credit: Cole Jacobson

Harrison College House, Rodin College House, and Harnwell College House all experienced pipe bursting and water flooding, as well as many Greek houses, such as the Alpha Delta Pi sorority house, the Sigma Delta Tau sorority house, the Sigma Nu fraternity house, and the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity house. Students living in off-campus residences experienced significant pipe burst issues as well.

On Penn's campus, the result of the increase in burst pipes and flooding has been an increase in administrative support and resources. Facilities and Real Estate Services Operations and Maintenance Director of Trades Mike Fohner told The Daily Pennsylvanian in an email that FRES calls in additional plumbers, steamfitters, and control technicians "to monitor systems that were susceptible to cold-weather impacts to improve response time and minimize damage."

As a result, many students had to relocate to different rooms while maintenance workers repaired the broken pipes. Penn Residential Services has said that it is offering free temporary housing for students experiencing emergencies that make their residences unlivable. 

According to the Philadelphia Water Department statement, the reported number of water main breaks this past winter doubled from the number reported during the same period last year in Philadelphia. The number of calls reporting leaks skyrocketed from 438 calls last year to 1,087 calls this year. Around 170 of this year’s calls are still being reviewed as of Wednesday.

Laura Copeland, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Water Department, said at the beginning of the year that similarly cold years have also resulted in increased reports.

“I think it’s all over the city,” Copeland added. “It’s not concentrated in any one area.”

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