Dominion Power’s Water Line Replacement Program – What is It?

This came to my email inbox last week from a client/homeowner in the City of Charlottesville:

About 2 weeks ago, our little cul-de-sac began getting letters from Dominion (Power) regarding the water line running from our houses to the street. The gist goes something like this: “beneath your yard could be a $4,000 problem waiting to happen” but, “we” could take care of that for you for $3.99/month. Essentially they’re declaring that any water line failure from our house to the street is our problem (may be the case) but they (the power company) can fix it all for ~$4.00 a month. Piece of mind – enroll online. “you can’t afford to be without the Water Line Replacement Program”

So I have a couple of questions : are you familiar with this? if so, why is Dominion involved and not the city? Has there been an increase in these incidents recently to prompt such a scare campaign? $4000 seems a bit high considering where I am and the distance from house to road – what of that? What of home values and this water line replacement fad?

Turns out Dominion Power does have a Water Line Replacement Program.

Our Sewer Line Repair Program provides financial protection for the underground sewer line that runs from the foundation of your home to the main sewer line or septic tank. If you experience a clog or find a sinkhole over your sewer line caused by tree roots, collapsed pipe, heavy usage or normal wear and tear, Dominion Products and Services, Inc. will take the necessary steps to unclog a covered condition.*

Quick information from me

1) Yes, the line from the house to the street is your responsibility.
2) Yes, it does usually cost a couple thousand dollars to fix – from my experience (I’m not a plumber) $2,000 – $4,000 seems a reasonable estimate.
3) You’ll probably know that you have a leak when your ~$50/month water bill skyrockets to several hundred or a couple thousand dollars.
4) A lot of plumbing in the City of Charlottesville is old – terra cotta, orangeburg, and galvanized pipes – and these do deteriorate and go bad.
4b) Roots are bad. They damage plumbing.
5) I’d be inclined to take that $4/month and stash it away. (however, if this program works as advertised, I might be inclined to not spend the ~$300 for the inspection, and hedge my bets)
6) Other than, because they have the equipment and know-how and want to make money, I can’t think of a reason why Dominion would be offering this program.  I’m less cynical now. 🙂

The Dominion sewer line program seems a bit like cell phone insurance, but you’re probably much more likely to make a claim for a busted iPhone. The Charlottesville (and American) infrastructure is old. And falling apart. If you’re in the City of Charlottesville, the chances of your water line being old are pretty darn good.

Additionally, I have recommended (based on experienced horror stories) that buyers have plumbers scope these lines as part of the inspection process – it’s not a bad idea. Trust me. (Update December 2016 – I’m recommending these consistently for homes in the City of Charlottesville, particularly those built before the mid-1980’s)

So – if you’re thinking about putting your home on the market, be aware that this is an issue that might come up. If you’re a homeowner, pay attention to your water bill and build your emergency fund. If you’re a renter, don’t worry about it.

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6 Comments

  1. JMAN November 20, 2012 at 14:07

    My water line from the street meter to my house burst and i did not know it until my local water company sent me a notice that my usage was 10x normal. I called two plumbing companies to come out and repair/replace. The pipes are 4-5 feet below the ground level. They both said it was cheaper and more efficient to replace and run new pipes then to try ot find the leak and repair. Both quotes were for in excess of $13,000. My house is about 160 feet from the road. Buy it, if you have plastic piping and old piping, try to save $4,000 at $4 a month (only takes about 1000 months or 83 years). Cell phones we are at the point where we throw them away once a year, water pipes to your house, you never want to replace if you don’t have to.

    Reply
    1. Jim Duncan November 25, 2012 at 16:35

      I have this discussion on every house in the City on which I represent buyers … there are some *very* old pipes in the City …orange burg (sp), terra cotta, galvanized … they all have lifespans, and a lot of them are near or beyond their functional lifespans.

      Reply
  2. Dave F - Vienna VA August 28, 2013 at 13:05

    I had Dominion’s water line program for about 4 years. Based on reports from around the neighborhood, the original water lines were at the age that many had broken or were going to bread (I had the old gray plastic lines that was popular 30 to 40 years ago).
    When the line broke I called Dominion and they did a great job replacing the line. I did upgrade my line both in size (1″) and to copper which cost me extra, but the insurance paid about $2,800.
    I normally self insure on almost every topic. But not on this. Over the five years I paid the insurance, I paid about $250. Very good ROI.
    I highly recommend Dominion’s insurance programs. I have a couple of their other offerings.

    Reply
  3. R. W. Brown June 16, 2018 at 15:27

    I had this happen in a forty year-old house in Decatur, Alabama. Apparently a tree root got into the street connection. Because it was on city side of the connection, the city paid for it and it was about $1800. That connection was for a terracotta line. My current home, in Williamsburg, Virginia is 7 years old, with PVC piping, and one small tree in the front yard. Given that I am 66 years-old, it does not seem likely that I will breakeven over my lifetime. The cost here starts at $6.99 per month which is higher than in Fredricksburg, but maybe they think the average house age here is 400 years. Unless I see something better, I think I will pass.

    Reply
  4. Lisa Brennan-Webb December 8, 2018 at 14:57

    My problem with this whole thing is that all of the info was mailed to a person who lives in the house but is NOT the homeowner, NOT the Dominion client, and NOT the water customer. So, it would seem that if we had signed up under that name, would it have been a legal coverage? How would they have billed if it was in his name but he was not the dominion customer? Fortunately, we called and set it up properly over the phone.

    Reply
    1. Jim Duncan December 9, 2018 at 10:31

      Hmmm … that’s really interesting. Maybe should be something for my clients to check on whenever they buy a new house.

      Reply

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