Since the beginning of May there has been a massive construction project on Livingston Street in Port Richmond. The block, along with many others throughout the neighborhood, is being reconstructed to replace old pipes underground.
“We are putting in a new water line and water services to the houses,” said head contractor from the Philadelphia Water Department, Peter Napicchione. “We are also putting in a new sewer line, reinstalling curbs and paving a new street.”
Although the repairs will benefit the block in the long run, currently it is causing residents total havoc as their homes and vehicles continue to be affected by rampant dust, mud and sewage water.
Bridget Hutt, who lives on Livingston Street, has had significant damage done to her home.
“I had five inches of water in my home,” said Hutt. “You can’t use the term flooded or else it won’t be covered by insurance. But there was a substantial amount of water damage in my basement. It’s dry now but it just looks really ugly.”
Hutt’s mother, Dorothy Hutt, does not live on Livingston Street but frequents it often to babysit her grandson.
“It was very upsetting. Bridget has a little baby who was sick at the time all this began,” said Dorothy Hutt. “My granddaughter Erin also had her prom one night when it was raining. It was all just very inconvenient, but everything seems to be working out now.”
Vince Mattiace, also a resident on the street, had a pipe clogged with dirt which led into his kitchen sink. Mattiace said the water company acted fast to fix the issue.
“The next morning somebody came out to put a whole new pipe in for me,” said Mattiace. “They were very prompt.”
Besides numerous reports of damages, many neighbors are perplexed as to why some residents found out about the planned construction before others. Neighbor Susan Simoncini found out a few weeks before because of an inside source.
“My brother-in-law is a ward leader, so I found out in advance,” said Simoncini. “I haven’t had any damages either so far. Just some brown water coming out of my sink, but I figured that was all about the process of them turning the water off and turning it back on.”
Another main issue besides the loud construction and dirty water is the amount of dust caused by the machinery.
“You can’t open the front door or your windows,” said homeowner Laura Shinn. “So basically you’re running the air conditioner at night and not getting fresh air.”
Other residents are not being affected by heavy construction on their block. Livingston resident Jim Shirk is in the construction business himself. Because of this, the work has not been a bother to him.
“I’m glad they are here,” said Shirk. “It was good for me because I just have an old work truck. Everyone else has been avoiding the street because they have nice cars and don’t want them to get damaged. So now I have plenty of space to park, which is usually rare. But if I had a nice car I would have been annoyed.”
Although neighbor Gissel Lopez lucked out as far as any physical damage to her home, she can not help but feel frustrated over all the dirt that seems to be taking over her block.
“My car is just filthy and disgusting. I have to park around the corner,” said Lopez. “I can’t open my windows in my home because of all the dirt. And when it rains it really gets bad. Everything gets covered in mud.”
Lopez’s mother could not even park on the street for a few hours without her vehicle being affected.
“My mom was here this morning and her entire car from the top to the tire was completely covered in mud,” said Lopez.
Despite the slight damage to his home, Mattiace knows that the current construction is worth risking the unneeded stress that would be caused in the future if the water and sewer mains were left untreated.
“It has to be done,” said Mattiace. “They are all old original pipes. If they weren’t fixed we would all have an even bigger problem.”
The project is expected to be done by late November, however, there is still a decent amount of work to be completed.
“There are steps to the process,” said Napicchione. “Once we put the water line in we have to test it for sanitary purposes until it’s cleared, then we can eventually hook up to the houses.”
– Video, text and images by Catherine Palmer and Angelise Stuhl.