Eau Claire (WQOW) - The City of Eau Claire said the city's insurance company is denying liability coverage.
Since the water main break in the area of 11th St. and Fountain St. on February 27, the city determined 53 homes were affected.
The water main in question was installed in 1934 and the break was caused by an act of nature. Approximately 10 water main breaks occur within the city every year due to freezing and thawing. Eau Claire officials said this was not the fault of property owners or the city.
Eau Claire has liability insurance, but after review, the insurance company denied liability.
The city is putting together a financial assistance program that will pay for water and sand extraction, general cleanup, sanitation, as well as furnace and water heater inspection/repairs. In addition, they will pay up to $1,000 for actual cash value of personal property damage per household. This is an attempt at assuring the impacted homeowners will have safe, clean homes.
If the homeowner had a finished basement or extensive personal property, they can also look to their homeowner’s insurance for payment, which is an optional coverage every homeowner can elect to have.
City staff will continue to make contact with residents in the neighborhood, and will be providing them information on how they can submit their claim to the city. The city is still helping remove debris in order to make sure homes are clean, safe and sanitary.
Eau Claire City Risk Management can be contacted at 715-839-4921 for more information, questions, and if additional resources are needed.
Posted February 28, 2018
Eau Claire (WQOW) -- The clean up continued Wednesday in Eau Claire, after a water main break early Tuesday morning.
City crews made their way up and down Fountain Street, helping residents clear out their flooded basements and hauling away damaged goods. They planned on staying out until 9:00 p.m. Wednesday and will be back on the job throughout the week as needed.
The city said as many as 42 homes were impacted by the break, but they're still making contact with all of the residents in the area.
Crews told News 18 there's still plenty of work to be done, but the community has been appreciative and Mother Nature, cooperative.
"The weather has been absolutely ideal for this, considering that it's the end of February," said Scott Kwick, a supervisor in the Eau Claire Utilities Division. "If the weather had gone below zero, or something like that, there'd been a few houses that were without heat overnight, and then you would have gotten into broken, or frozen pipes and such."
Vans of private contractors could also be seen lining the streets Wednesday. Servpro of Eau Claire told News 18 the calls started coming in at about 3:30 a.m. Tuesday and they haven't slowed down much since.
"We had five crews out and as soon as each crew got done it was jumping to the next," Kyle Yudes said. "We did have to lose a few of those calls, but the most important thing is that the customers were being taken care of. Whether it was by us or another company."
A city spokesperson for the issue said the broken water main was installed in 1934 and was slated to be replaced this summer, but they said the break had nothing to do with the pipe's age. Officials said the city experiences about ten water main breaks a year, but they don't anticipate another mess like Tuesday's.
Right now, the city is still working with its insurance company to determine liability and costs. Officials hope to have more information for impacted residents by the end of the week.
Kwick said, at this time, the city will be providing dumpsters and labor free of charge. Which is good news, because residents know the clean up won't be cheap.
"Damage-wise, what I lost is going to be well over a few-thousand dollars," homeowner Josh Bahr said, "but also with everything -- with the basement being finished and now having to be demoed, having to refinish a basement also costs quite a bit. So yeah, it's going to be up there."
Though local insurance agents told News 18 there is coverage for homeowners in this kind of situation.
"It's a water, sewer back-up endorsement. And this is where the sewer backs up, and forces water up through your pipes, floor drains, toilets, sinks," said Marcus Oliver, the owner of Oliver Insurance Agency in Eau Claire. "Now generally if it were just a water main break, water coming into the home, surface water, isn't covered unless you have flood insurance."
Luckily, Bahr was covered by the water, sewer endorsement, but he's concerned it won't be enough to repair his ruined basement. That's why he's hoping the city will split the bill.
"What I would hope for is to at least get back to having my basement the way it was, without too much extra cost. Because it's kind of a lot of take care of," Bahr said.
Residents who are having a hard time getting through on the city's Risk Management hotline for help are encouraged to head to the intersection of Ninth and Fountain Streets. Crews have set up a meeting spot there, and will be around that area so residents are never far from help.